An ongoing pertinent discussion in the University community — student safety — was on the Michigan Student Assembly’s agenda last night.
At the student government meeting in MSA Chambers, Greg O’Dell, chief of the University’s Department of Public Safety, addressed the assaults that occurred near campus during the summer and have persisted into the fall semester.
O’Dell, who began his position as University police chief at the end of August, began his presentation by explaining the department’s jurisdiction, which includes all property owned or leased by the University. However, O’Dell said DPS and the Ann Arbor Police Department work closely, and when individuals dial 9-1-1 they will be connected to the appropriate department.
O’Dell specifically addressed the six assault cases that occurred between July 15 and July 26 — four of which were sexual assaults. He added that he is not sure if a reported assault on Sept. 13 on the 400 block of South First Street near William Street is connected to the others.
“Now at this point, we don’t know how many are actually related,” O’Dell said. “It looks like there’s a fair chance that the six may be related. It’s really unknown as far as this last one whether it is going to be related or not.”
O’Dell stressed that despite the large amount of media attention the summer cases received, assaults by strangers are anomalous in Ann Arbor.
“There are a lot more sexual assaults that take place between people who know each other,” he said. “In fact, it is estimated that 90 percent of sexual assaults are between people where the victim knows the offender.”
O’Dell said DPS would like to maintain an active relationship with students.
“I’m a big believer in doing this and us being out in public and being available for your questions,” he said. “If things come up during the school year, I’m very happy to return here … I’m happy to come in (MSA meetings) and address things. It’s a much better way to operate instead of hearing rumors and not know what’s going on.”
In an interview after the meeting, MSA President DeAndree Watson said he appreciated that O’Dell came to the meeting to address students.
“It’s really important to continue the conversation about people’s safety, and that’s really looking to the sexual assaults that occurred near campus and staying updated on what the University’s response is and what’s going on in the investigation,” Watson said.
Nursing rep. talks MNA contract negotiations
Toward the end of the meeting last night, Nursing junior Hayley Mandell, a Nursing School representative in MSA, announced that nurses at the University are happy to see students supporting the Michigan Nurses Association’s position in its contract dispute with the University’s Board of Regents. The nurses have not had a solidified contract since July 1.
At the MSA meeting on Sept. 13, the student government passed a resolution to support the nurses union. Last night, Mandell explained the current situation to the assembly.
“Basically, the University Hospital is re-contracting the nurses and changing some things like reducing the health benefits, and the nurses are concerned that if this starts, other things will happen that will impact the people who work below them,” Mandell said.
Watson added that MSA’s support stems from the assembly’s desire to see the nurses receive their contractual benefits, and that students aren’t negatively affected by the negotiations.
“The reason behind (MSA’s support of the nurses) is that we really want to ensure that students are not harmed in this process,” Watson said. “We understand that these concessions are possible, and we just want to make sure that the quality of care of students isn’t reduced as a result of these contract negotiations.”
— Peter Shahin contributed to this report.