Fear of crime, frustration on UWI campus

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies stu­dents are fear­ful for their safe­ty fol­low­ing a string of vi­o­lence against stu­dents in re­cent weeks that cul­mi­nat­ed in a bloody at­tack on a sec­ond year stu­dent on Tues­day.

Tues­day evening’s day­light rob­bery and al­leged as­sault of the fe­male stu­dent on the cam­pus, they ad­mit­ted on Wednes­day, is weigh­ing heav­i­ly on their minds.

Sec­ond-year psy­chol­o­gy stu­dent Chikara Mitchell told Guardian Me­dia, “It’s not some­thing you want to wor­ry about—com­ing to school and wor­ry­ing about your safe­ty, think­ing about where you can and can’t go, al­ways hav­ing to be with a friend.”

Her com­ment came even as UWI Vice Prin­ci­pal Prof In­dar Ram­nar­ine is­sued a state­ment to all stu­dents to “take the pre­cau­tions we have con­tin­u­al­ly pro­mot­ed”. These pre­cau­tions, Ram­nar­ine said, in­clude the con­tin­u­ous dis­play of their stu­dent IDs while on the cam­pus and us­ing the shut­tle ser­vice. How­ev­er, stu­dents do not be­lieve this is enough to give them a sense of se­cu­ri­ty.

“They say these things oc­cur but you don’t see them im­ple­ment­ed,” Mitchell said.

“You can break down each one of their points and find a loop­hole. For one, the shut­tle ser­vice is nev­er on time…the es­cort ser­vice that is sup­posed to es­cort you around cam­pus—last week one of my friends had to es­cort me to the bus route be­cause no pa­trols were around.”

She echoed in­for­ma­tion shared by oth­er stu­dents that this was not the first time some­thing like this has hap­pened.

“In­ter­est­ing­ly enough, the same thing hap­pened last year. They (Stu­dent Guild) had a town hall meet­ing where they dis­cussed things and while things were im­ple­ment­ed, yes ad­min did crack down on a few things, but it was like if we got a 2.5 steps and they were like ‘we please them enough, let’s go back to what we reg­u­lar­ly do.’”

Fi­nal year po­lit­i­cal sci­ence stu­dent Sid­deq Ho­sein mean­while said he was frus­trat­ed with the way the uni­ver­si­ty was treat­ing the se­cu­ri­ty is­sue.

“The lack of a proac­tive or even a re­ac­tive re­sponse from the ad­min­is­tra­tion to pro­tect their biggest as­set, the stu­dents, has left us to ques­tion their pri­or­i­ties,” Ho­sein told Guardian Me­dia.

“I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been try­ing to sweep un­der the rug what’s been hap­pen­ing.”

Ini­tial re­ports sug­gest­ed that on Tues­day af­ter­noon, a sus­pect at­tempt­ed to sex­u­al­ly as­sault and rob a fe­male stu­dent near the bath­room lock­ers at the Stu­dent Ac­tiv­i­ty Cen­tre on cam­pus. How­ev­er, the stu­dent put up a fight and her at­tack­er slashed her on the leg with a knife be­fore mak­ing his es­cape out the south gate.

The in­ci­dent has sparked out­rage from stu­dents and led the Guild of Stu­dents to call an emer­gency meet­ing for to­day to dis­cuss the is­sue.

In a state­ment on Wednes­day, how­ev­er, vice prin­ci­pal Ram­nar­ine con­firmed a fe­male stu­dent was robbed but de­nied re­ports she was sex­u­al­ly as­sault­ed.

“Ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the stu­dent re­veals no ev­i­dence of at­tempt­ed or al­leged sex­u­al as­sault, con­trary to what has been men­tioned on some so­cial me­dia sites,” he said.

“We have spared no ef­fort in cre­at­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment for all stu­dents that at­tend our cam­pus. This re­mains a pri­or­i­ty. We know that more can al­ways be done and must be done to fos­ter a space where all stu­dents feel safe and sup­port­ed at all times.”

Ram­nar­ine al­so en­cour­aged stu­dents to make use of the cam­pus se­cu­ri­ty es­cort ser­vice, avail­able on re­quest from 6 pm-6 am, des­ig­nat­ed se­cure study ar­eas, the shut­tle ser­vice, des­ig­nat­ed pa­trolled walk­ways and the emer­gency blue phone ser­vice.