On March 29, around 10:30 p.m., gunshots reverberated between buildings housing thousands of University of Minnesota students calling Dinktown their home away from home. The fatal shooting took place right outside the apartment building I lived in for a year. Although the victim, may God have mercy on him, was not a student, this violence is another cause for concern for those who live near the area.
In the past year, Minneapolis and the surrounding metropolitan area have seen what looks like an attack. Since last March, our campus leadership has worked tirelessly to mitigate the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to students, faculty and the surrounding community. It is very clear to students that the university has made its response to COVID-19 a priority since it started last year.
These efforts, this concern for our safety, have not gone unnoticed or underappreciated. Unfortunately, as university leaders have poured countless resources into their response to COVID-19, they have failed to notice the growing sense of students that our campus is no longer safe at night.
Perhaps the culmination of this failure was the violence that occurred on the night of the twenty-ninth. But as sad and disturbing as this crime was, it is also unfortunate that it cannot be called an anomaly. While the scale of this crime was greater than what students were used to last year, it underscores the potentially deadly threat now facing students who live on or near campus.
You’d be hard-pressed to identify a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night in the past six months when no student has been robbed, at gunpoint, or beaten for seemingly no reason while trying to get home. Admittedly, I am very angry that this has happened to more of my close friends than I can count on one hand, but what is almost more frustrating is the university leadership’s disregard for student safety.
It has not escaped me that COVID-19 has made this school year even more difficult for our leaders to get through. All I ask is that we, University of Minnesota students, see an improvement in campus safety and that we see it soon.
One positive step is to tackle rare and outdated lighting in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village areas, where many of these crimes have occurred. This can provide relief in the long run, but it will take some time and work with the city council to enact it.
I also understand that the death of George Floyd changed the way our campus and city would function moving forward. But perhaps a compromise to keep students safe from hit-and-run crimes that are becoming more frequent is to increase the presence of the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD). This can be achieved by placing more surveillance cameras in areas that have experienced an increase in crime or by having a physical presence with routine patrols.
The goal of UMPD should not be to impede students’ privacy but rather to preserve students’ safety.
Safe-U alerts are not enough to protect students from an increasingly dangerous campus. I realize there is not a single comment in the Star Tribune, but it is imperative that something be done to keep the students safe. Having said all this, I believe I share almost all my fellow students a common feeling in challenging President Joan Gabel and other university leaders to take immediate action to restore security and order to our beloved campus.
Mason Thimjon is a student in Minneapolis.