Is PSU’s ‘open campus’ policy safe?

In light of the recent stabbing in Parking Structure 3 (located at 12th Avenue and Montgomery Street) and yesterday’s bomb scare, I wonder how safe we are on the “open” campus of our urban university.

In light of the recent stabbing in Parking Structure 3 (located at 12th Avenue and Montgomery Street) and yesterday’s bomb scare, I wonder how safe we are on the “open” campus of our urban university.

Crime happens everywhere. Unfortunately, some of us end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But typically, with a bit of common sense and precaution, we’ll get to and from our cars, then to and from our classes, safely.

Our safety is our own responsibility, and Portland State’s campus doesn’t pose any greater threats than those you may encounter anywhere else in the city.

Still, PSU doesn’t seem overly cautious with regard to the safety of its students. Other than the fact that I have to change my password almost every time I log on to Banweb, no security measures are imposed on my daily life on campus.

Our campus security is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can enforce state laws and university regulations. Their website has a “campus alert” link, which states, “In the event that a situation arises, either on or off campus, that, in the judgment of the Director of Public Safety, constitutes an ongoing or continuing threat, a campus wide ‘timely warning’ will be issued…” Thus far, last week’s stabbing has been the only alert issued.

A “threat,” I think, is the issue students have to concern themselves with. PSU is an “open” campus, which means there are no barriers between the university and the “outside world,” as the campus security website puts it. In other words, anybody is welcome on our campus, including evangelists who take center stage outside Smith Memorial Student Union in order to preach to the heathens who make up our student body. This also includes the homeless who nap in SMSU, stretching out over the indoor benches and chairs, and occasionally pass out in the bathrooms on the second floor. Other than that, there’s only the year-round shuffling of nearly 25,000 students who take classes at PSU.

So, is that threatening? I don’t think so. The fact that someone is a religious fanatic or homeless doesn’t really pose a threat to our safety. In fact, I spend more time dodging those smiley pairs of volunteers, always stationed on Park Avenue, carrying three-ring binders and trying to solicit my signature or wallet for some noble cause. They are like conscience bullies who’ve wandered onto campus to harass us into giving them our lunch money in order to save the world. Still, aside from peace of mind, I don’t feel threatened by them.

But with so much human traffic and the expanse of our campus (41 buildings across 49 acres), couldn’t PSU do more to prevent situations like the one that arose in Parking Structure 3? The Vanguard reported last April that installing security cameras in the parking structures is an option; however, Campus Public Safety is concerned that it would cause liabilities, making PSU responsible if a criminal filmed in the act is not caught [“Thefts, break-ins startle students,” April 14]. Is this reasonable apprehension?

Certainly, if our security had noticed a man crying and hunched over in the parking lot, someone–someone who is trained to handle such situations–would have dealt with it and a stabbing could have been prevented, right? Or does an “open” campus prevent even that possibility? If it is customary to allow anyone on campus, then would it even seem alarming to campus security that a man (the suspect of the stabbing, in this case) was slouched over in the stairwell of a parking structure?

And if cameras won’t do the trick and we can’t change our “open” policy, then what? The meter maids seem on top of their games around here, so why not toss a couple of third-stringers into the parking lots to run out people who are loitering or pose a potential threat?

Campus Public Safety needs to take some kind of further action to prevent things like stabbings from happening in the future.