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Alleged assaults cause concern among many UWRF students

October 4, 2007

A sexual assault that took place on a campus path last year raised the issue of whether or not campus is doing all they can to keep students safe.

The sexual assault that took place last year raised issues for many people. The assault happened to a female student at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 2006. The assailant was said to be a male attacking her from behind, according to UW-River Falls Public Safety Reports.

There was also an alleged assault that happened within the last two weeks. The details of that are not being released at this time.

The paths that many students use on a daily basis run from Ramer Field behind the University and back to South Fork Suites.

The paths that are highly traveled between Ramer Field and the University are well lit, unlike the path that leads behind the University Center to South Fork Suites.

There are call boxes around campus, illuminated with blue lights, to use in case of an emergency situation. When a button is pushed on these devices a signal goes to River Falls police and an officer is notified to check out the situation.

“Most of the time they are being hit by people who are just messing around,” River Falls Police officer Eric Van Nocker said.

The call boxes are placed at a visible distance apart so that when you are standing at one box you can see another one. This was done with the intention of making sure that everyone is safe while walking on campus.

Student Senate has also put in some time in helping keep the paths a safe place to be walking on at all times. Student Senate has allocated $30,000 of their money to help with the safety of students walking on the paths. The money that senate put aside is for call boxes; each one costs approximately $4,500.

“We want all of our students to be safe,” UWRF student affairs employee Gregg Heinselman said.

The path between the University Center and South Fork Suites does not have any lighting or any call boxes.

“That is why we recommend that everyone walks in groups,” Heinselman said. “We do not recommend that anyone walks by themselves after dark anywhere on campus.”

The paths are meant for students to use, but are mainly for use during the day.

“I would not even want to walk on those paths alone at night,” Sgt. Janis Bock said.

The paths are used quite frequently, even at night, and are dangerous for a number of reasons. There are many animals that live in the woods. Also, there is no telling whether or not there are people hiding, because the woods are so thick.

“We have done a lot of work with the vegetation, cutting it away from the trails,” Heinselman said. 

Cutting away some of the vegetation surrounding the trail will enhance student’s vision of their surroundings while using the path.

“Originally we did not want to put lights on the path that leads to South Fork Suites,” Heinselman said. “We want students to stick to the main path and walk in groups.”

Student Senate also offers a safety walkthrough, which is meant to help inform students about safe procedures when using campus paths and trails. The walkthrough is also meant to make students aware of the possible dangers of walking alone or in groups on campus paths.

“I agree with campus, you want to try to discourage anyone to go through there,” officer Van Nocker said.

“I don’t use the paths all that often, but I do work at a bar, and it would be nice to know that there were more lights if I did need to walk down those paths when I was coming home from work at 3 in the morning,” junior Nici Kunkel said. “I try to avoid walking on those paths even during the day.”

With continued growth at UWRF the path that leads behind the University Center to South Fork is being used more than in past years. There has been talk about adding more call boxes for safety measures. The path that leads to South Fork now does not have any call boxes or lights.

“Campus security is always going down those paths, and we patrol them if there is nothing else going on,” Van Nocker said.

This year UWRF added 240 students who will possibly be using those trails. Also, with an addition planned for the South Fork Suites there could be even more people using those paths at night.

“I think that they should be adding more lights to those paths, especially since there will be an addition to the suites,” senior Danny Gilles said.

Some students believe that there is more the University can do to improve the safety and well being of students.

“I think there not only needs to be blue lights [call boxes] added, but I think there should also be at least one camera on the paths just in case you need to go back and find something,” Gilles said.

With continued growth at UWRF the path that leads behind the University Center to South Fork is being used more than in past years. There has been talk about adding more call boxes for safety measures. The path that leads to South Fork now does not have any call boxes or lights.

“Campus security is always going down those paths, and we patrol them if there is nothing else going on,” Van Nocker said.

This year UWRF added 240 students who will possibly be using those trails. With an addition planned for the South Fork Suites there could be even more people using those paths at night.

“I think that they should be adding more lights to those paths, especially since there will be an addition to the suites,” senior Danny Gilles said.

Some students believe that there is more the University can do to improve the safety and well being of students.

“I think there not only needs to be blue lights [call boxes] added, but I think there should also be at least one camera on the paths just in case you need to go back and find something,” Gilles said.

The cost of each blue light is not the only cost that the University would be paying for.

“Along with the costs of the blue lights, we have to pay for the wiring and all the running of those lights,” Heinselman said.

The University is now working with Student Senate and reaching out to the UW system to ask for more funding to make the paths a safer place to be. It will cost the University roughly $200,000 to make the paths safer.

“It’s nice to know that they are at least trying to work with someone for our safety,” freshman Justin Wagner said.

While the best thing that campus can do for now is to warn students to not walk home alone, late at night, by themselves.