Six months after a string of sexual assaults occurred near campus, campus organizations are still working to increase safety initiatives in the community.
Last September, students and University officials launched Beyond the Diag, a program aimed to raise awareness of student safety and community involvement in response to four sexual assaults and two other assaults that occurred in July. In addition to this group, a newly formed organization aims to unite the Ann Arbor Police Department, the University’s Department of Public Safety and the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center in an effort to continue to promote community well-being.
The recent partnership, the Student Safety Workgroup, is chaired by Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of SAPAC, and is a collaboration between John Seto, deputy chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department, Joe Piersante, interim executive director of the University’s Department of Public Safety and Laura Blake Jones, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students.
Jones said the organization aims to determine how the city of Ann Arbor and the University can work together to improve safety in the community, specifically by garnering input from students.
“It’s a collaborative University and city effort to ask ourselves, ‘How effective has this been?’ and what more could we be doing,” Jones said.
Jones added that the group is a multi-faceted program that brainstorms creative ways to keep students safe.
“I’m hoping that this committee will come up with three or more ideas of things we can do,” Jones said. “Because we want to continue to be responsive to the needs and continue to do things that are really relevant for students.”
Rider-Milkovich noted that the group — which has not yet had its first meeting — will use the skills of a diverse group of administrators to devise new methods of safety education.
“We think of this not only as helping students stay safe while they’re on campus and while they’re part of the University of Michigan community, but also giving them skills that they can move forward once they graduate,” Rider-Milkovich said.
Rider-Milkovich said sexual assault is only one type of crime SAPAC works to prevent, adding that she plans to use her expertise in sexual assault prevention to aid the group in preventing all forms of crime.
“In my role as chair, I will be helping the group to really focus in on the spectrum of safety initiatives that are already in place on campus and looking for ways to enhance what we have and really create the comprehensive framework of safety education,” Rider-Milkovich said.
Seto said he is involved in the workgroup to demonstrate his department’s commitment to student safety.
“AAPD is there to pledge the full support of the police department in this initiative to improve student safety,” Seto said. “I think our other role is … along with the University of Michigan police and the Dean of Students Office, to collectively evaluate ideas that may improve student safety and see how we can implement those in a collaborative effort.”
Seto said though DPS and AAPD already collaborate on a regular basis, the workgroup may help them improve their relationship.
“I think this workgroup may be a way for us to solicit other ideas from other people that may be in the workgroup so that we can see how we can even improve on that,” Seto said.
In a statement to The Michigan Daily on Monday, Piersante said he hopes the group will aid DPS in improving its current efforts to educate students on crime prevention.
“We support efforts to raise awareness among our students as to how they can contribute to our community’s safety, while also reducing their personal safety risk,” Piersante said. “I look forward to hearing recommendations from the workgroup regarding suggested enhancements to our current efforts.”
LSA junior Josh Buoy, a student safety assistant in the Dean of Students Office and a chair of the Central Student Government’s Student Safety Commission, said the Beyond the Diag program continues to serve as a holistic approach to student safety.
“It’s definitely small steps (leading) to a larger goal,” Buoy said.
Buoy said as a part of Beyond the Diag, the division of student affairs has been sending monthly e-newsletters to students living off-campus with articles and tips from the University Health Service, the Department of Public Safety and Counseling and Psychological Services.
Beyond student safety, the program also looks to increase safety for all members of the Ann Arbor community.
“The safety component is one very important component of what we’re doing,” he said. “But equally important as the safety component is the community aspect as well.”
Buoy said three neighborhood ambassadors have been assigned to create programs for students in different neighborhoods to encourage “neighborhood identity,” adding that the ambassadors will work with Ann Arbor City Council members to establish associations within each neighborhood.
Buoy said the program aims to assure students that the University is still concerned for their well-being even though they live off-campus, and the organization hopes to continue to foster a connection with students moving out of the residence halls by distributing posters and fliers with information about the group.
AAPD Police Chief Barnett Jones, who has passed out information and canvassed neighborhoods as part of the program, said the initiative’s focus on community involvement ensures that students are looking out for their neighbors, adding that Beyond the Diag is particularly conducive to community-oriented policing.
“They’re better witnesses and better prepared to invoke the criminal justice system when needed because they’ll have more information to give us,” Jones said.
Laura Blake Jones said University students have been at the forefront of Beyond the Diag.
“We’ve been building the program from the ground up and all of it has been student initiated,” Jones said.
Buoy and his fellow student safety assistant, LSA junior Stephanie Hamel, have been at the core of the program, Jones said, ensuring that students can relate to the program’s initiatives.
“We’re trying to make what goes on … relevant to the off-campus students,” Jones said.
Correction appended: A previous version of the article misidentified AAPD Chief Barnett Jones as a member of the Student Safety Workgroup. It also incorrectly attributed several quotes to Chief Jones.