Enriching this community
Five things UB could (and should) do in regard to the Heights
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 21:03
“You’re in charge of your own safety.”
That’s one of the main points on UB’s Off-Campus Student services page and the highlight of the last few weeks of our nearly one-sided conversation.
In other words, as Vice President for University Life and Services Dennis Black so encouragingly puts it, “We’re not in the protection business.”
Several articles, editorials and interviews later, The Spectrum’s question remains the same: Should UB take responsibility for the University Heights? And so does the answer:
The higher-ups clearly disagree, but if UB shouldn’t take responsibility and the Heights aren’t really a problem, then why have our inboxes been flooded with messages that say otherwise?
So to help them out and save them yet another public relations strategy meeting, here are five things The Spectrum feels could – no, need to – be done on the topic of the Heights.
1. Acknowledge there is a problem
When we asked President Satish Tripathi last week to respond to the aforementioned question, hisanswer was one of little substance. Despite all the underlined and accented implications of unit, there is nothing in its contents that instills confidence in UB’s students – off campus or on – that they will be safe. No promises, no suggestions – just, as one commenter said, “a lot of pretty words.” And that unity only exists in writing. Otherwise, we would not be having this conversation. There would be no talking of rising crime rates or of South Campus falling behind North Campus if we were all in this together.
Consider this UB’s intervention. The first step is admitting you have a problem. It takes credit for the good and pushes the bad into the “deal with later” pile. Except it never actually gets dealt with. Not once have the students heard anything that resembles responsibility, nor do they feel like the university is even interested in what they have to say. Instead, it finds the easiest possible way out of the situation: blame games and carefully worded letters that say “we’ll take care of it, don’t worry about it” rather than “this is what we’re going to do to take care of it.”
Because of that, the student residents get the blame for what is done and not done in the neighborhood. Part of UB’s plan for safety is to help students realize what they’re doing wrong. They’re told to keep their porch lights on and be hospitable and warm to their neighbors and are given brochures on how to be a better person. They’re told if they don’t feel safe in the Heights but need a cheap option, they should go live in other neighborhoods like Allentown, even if accessibility and transportation is not available to them. They’re told the Heights aren’t that bad by people who are only there for a couple of hours on the weekend. What they’re not told is how the school will help them if they need it.
“The problem is that nobody takes ownership for the students in the University Heights. The university doesn’t, the community does to some extent, as long as they’re well-behaving,” said Fred Brace, University District Housing Court liaison and Heights resident of 25 years. “For some, it’s a priority for the police because they consider it to be just kids acting up and they’re stupid walking around at 1 o’clock in the morning. You blame the victim is what it basically boils down to.”
UB even blames the students on its University Heights FAQ, citing vandalism and other “nuisance crimes” and referring to more serious incidents as rare – if your definition of rare equates to over 500 crimes of homicide, assault, rape, larceny, robbery, burglary and vehicle theft recorded last year. And Black told The Spectrum he thinks most crimes in the Heights are student-on-student, which is just untrue.
2. Own up to its size
In case you haven’t noticed during your morning cram into a Stampede bus to the Student Union, UB is not a small school. However, it’s noticeable by their actions – or lack thereof – our higher-ups believe the opposite. The Heights FAQ addresses this when mentioning why it doesn’t buy properties in the Heights: “UB simply doesn’t possess the resources needed to purchase large numbers of private residences and then provide the services required for this type of student housing.”
Most likely untrue, especially when we’re paying our president more than we’ve spent on the Heights. UB has spent approximately $150,000 in the Heights on things like security cameras, doorhangers and police patrols on peak weekends. University of Pennsylvania, a slightly smaller school but with admittedly bigger pockets, has spent $185.7 million on its off-campus residences. Canisius has also made efforts in its surrounding neighborhoods.
Unfortunately for UB, nobody believes for a second that this is too big of a deal for it to handle, especially when it’s shoveling students’ money into expansion programs and upgrades elsewhere.
3. Give University Police joint jurisdiction in the Heights