By Jennifer Lee, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 8, 2011
Students living in off-campus housing are welcoming the increased focus on safety in their neighborhoods that a new program, Beyond the Diag, is trying to instill.
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Supported by the Division of Student Affairs and run by the Michigan Student Assembly’s Student Safety Commission, the program aims to create a network of 11 off-campus neighborhoods on Central Campus and a stronger sense of community and safety within these neighborhoods. While many students have been receptive to the program and appreciate the increased emphasis on off-campus safety, some think the program’s community building goals aren't necessary.
Beyond the Diag is focusing on two areas this semester: the East Packard neighborhood, which extends from Packard Street to South Forest Street south of Oakland Avenue, and the Oxbridge neighborhood, the area around the Oxford Housing complex.
Laura Blake Jones, dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs, said the program strives to help students transition out of residence halls and into off-campus housing. She said she feels it is necessary for off-campus residents to know one another so they can better address safety concerns in their neighborhoods.
LSA junior Stephanie Hamel, vice chair of the Student Safety Commission, said she has noticed increased attention to safety among students in light of the assaults that occurred near campus this summer.
“I think that especially in the neighborhoods that we chose, there are areas (where) students are really on guard right now and really concerned about their personal safety because of the events that happened over the summer and last year,” Hamel said.
Some students living in these areas echoed Hamel’s sentiment and said they have been more careful about their well-being since the assaults and are looking forward to programs that aim to increase safety.
LSA junior Samantha Primack, who lives on East University and Greenwood Avenue, said she and her housemates have been more conscientious about safety since moving in this semester and hearing about the sexual assaults that occurred off-campus.
“One of the big things that we’ve been really careful about is never walking by ourselves anywhere, or if we are, having someone meet us halfway has been a big deal for us,” Primack said.
LSA junior Deven Kulkarni, who lives on Vaughn Street in the East Packard neighborhood, said he feels relatively safe on his street but would feel differently if he were living just one street away.
“If I were living on Greenwood though, that would probably be a different story, which is weird because it’s only a street over,” Kulkarni said. “But they’ve seen their fair share of crime alerts.”
Primack said she is looking forward to the increased resources Beyond the Diag is providing for off-campus students.
“I think it’s good that the University is putting a different priority on giving information and keeping people who are not necessarily on campus safe,” she said.
Primack also said he's noticed an increase in police presence in his neighborhood.
Primack’s house was visited by Jones, Hamel, Student Safety Commission Chair Josh Buoy, Department of Public Safety Chief Greg O’Dell and Ann Arbor Police Department Chief Barnett Jones in the officials’ “Knock and Talk” event last Friday. During the visit, the group went door-to-door in the two target neighborhoods of the Beyond the Diag initiative to increase safety awareness.
Jones said this was the most receptive she had seen students in her work at the University.
“In my years of doing similar kind of work on this campus and other campuses, it was the most positive response I’ve ever seen from students,” Jones said.