Image courtesy of Patrick Lewis
By Patrick D. Lewis
Public safety at CUA will be top of mind at the 2023-2024 Student Government Association (SGA) Senate, newly-elected Senators tell The Tower. The continuing focus on public safety comes after a summer that saw a murder on campus and a string of shootings and armed robberies within blocks of Catholic U as well as many efforts by university administrators and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to make the community feel safer.
The Tower polled and reached out to numerous Senators on their views of campus safety, after the results of the election were announced and heard back from several of the Senators-elect as well as SGA Vice President Alexander Harvey, who provided the following official statement:
“Ever since the tragic events of the summer, the Department of Public Safety and Major Kirk McLean have done an excellent job in taking the necessary steps to improve safety on campus. Enhancing the Rave Guardian App, hiring a new Emergency Response Coordinator, and arming certain campus police officers have all been positive steps toward ensuring the safety and protection of our campus community. Our Student Government will continue to work closely with Major McLean and DPS to ensure that student safety is a top priority this year.”
Senators Crawford, D’Albero, and Graf gave a three on a scale of 1-5 to the improvements made to school safety. Substantial concerns and questions remain; especially why these procedures were not already in place in the first place.
School of Architecture and Planning Senator Elisabeth D’Albero called the changes “long overdue.”
School of Arts and Sciences Senator Correy Crawford said, “While Catholic University and President Kilpatrick did a phenomenal job in the aftermath, we as a community should have had campus safety [sic] procedures in place already.”
Communication is key in an emergency situation. This was also a cause for concern regarding last year’s incident. SGA Senators rated the university’s initial communications about the July 5 murder of Maxwell Emerson as “somewhat poor.” Senator D’Albero noted that she found out about the incident “via the news” and heard “nothing from the university until several hours later.”
Of course, much of the violent crime affecting campus occurs in Brookland, not the campus proper.
Class of 2027 Senator Jack Hermes said, “The University and local community have worked tirelessly and successfully over the last 50 years to improve campus and neighborhood safety. Nevertheless, all of that trust was seemingly lost within a month.”
Similarly, Senator Crawford stated, “Community partners and cooperation between Catholic University in DC agencies and the Brookland community are vital to continuing campus safety goals…Thus, we should be working together and strengthening these bonds to create more than just a safe University but a safe neighborhood for our community.”
According to DC police statistics, year-to-date violent crime is up across the District in general. For example, there were 42 incidents at this time last year and 46 this year in Fort Totten, University Heights, and Michigan Park, all neighborhoods north and northeast of campus. Violent crime in Brookland, though, has skyrocketed from 36 to 65 in the same respective periods. Those 65 crimes include three homicides versus zero in the same period in 2022 and 49 robberies versus 20, a shocking 245% increase.
These worrying trends have spurred a huge conversation within the Catholic University community. They will also make their way to the SGA Senate. Senator Hermes said, “Rest assured: this will be among the first issues addressed at the Inaugural meeting of the 9th Senate at The Catholic University of America.”
Senator Anthony Graf, of the Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art, mentioned his school’s facilities in particular, saying, “I hope to address and discuss how we can bring these buildings to a higher safety standard so students feel safe and confident in the University.”
“It is time to act proactively rather than retroactively,” Senator Crawford said. “I intend to bring legislation forward that will bring disaster preparedness and proactivity to the forefront of CUA’s Campus Safety improvements so that every student, staff, and faculty members knows what to do in an emergency situation.”