Comment By Sean Tepper
For the first time in my three years at Ryerson, I don’t feel safe on campus.
This wasn’t brought about by the half-dozen reported sexual assaults that took place over the course of September or the subsequent string of robberies that followed.
No, this sense of paranoia was brought about by a single incident that occurred when a Ryerson student, who was checking his phone, was mugged in the middle of the busiest part of campus in broad daylight.
It was at that moment that I realized our safe haven had been breached.
Unlike other urban campuses such as the University of Toronto, Ryerson’s location faces its own unique challenges when it comes to monitoring people’s comings and goings, and what they do in between.
Sandwiched between the hustle and bustle of the Eaton Centre and the less-than-desirable George and Jarvis streets neighbourhood – infamously dubbed crack alley – the reality of the situation is that we don’t know who is on campus at any given time. Security included.
Theoretically, safety and transparency should come hand in hand; attached at the hip, so to speak. So why is it that we know very little about the steps that security is taking to ensure our safety? Julia Lewis, Ryerson’s chief emergency management officer, says that campus security is an ongoing, everchanging operation and that there are two types of changes that security makes: visible ones and non-visible ones.
The visible ones, she says, encompass security’s physical presence on campus, while the non-visible ones are “all the prevention efforts that happen behind the scenes,” which, to my knowledge, include: a threat and risk assessment unit, updating their website, building up awareness and working with their partners to identify troubled areas.
I don’t doubt that every day, security is hard at work analyzing campus trends and devising ample – if not intricate – plans to ensure our little city is a safe as can be. Honestly, I don’t.
But after two meetings where I asked what changes were made since September to ensure safety on campus, I’m still puzzled as to why those behind-the-scenes changes are not as transparent as they could be, and more importantly what exactly they are.
Sure, security has six to seven officers patrolling campus at all times and security watches are issued to all community members via email, but that doesn’t give me the peace of mind that it should.
Last week, our editor-in-chief Lee Richardson wrote an editorial disputing comments made by the head of Ryerson security that “the university is huge.” To that I would have to agree. Our campus is far from huge: it’s only the space between the new Mattamy Athletic Centre and the Ted Rogers School of Management where we find ourselves spread thin. Not to mention, the densely populated areas off-campus between those two buildings.
The easiest solution to elevate security is to have more officers out on the streets, watching our every move;
but would that make us feel safer or create a sense of fear-mongering paranoia? I’m not claiming to have all the answers to Ryerson’s security problem – in fact I don’t have any. But I’m sure security does and when people are getting mugged in broad daylight, every student on campus should be clear on what those solutions are.