Campus Safety Walk raises student awareness

Chance Swaim

Wichita State University Police Officer Chad Agnew wrote, “more emergency boxes” on his notepad during the Campus Safety Walk Thursday night after hearing complaints from students.

“The most eye opening thing is the lack of emergency lights,” freshman Raven Hodges said. “During orientation — because I’m a freshman — they specifically stated that wherever you turn your eyes [on campus] the emergency lights should be there. I find that to be false.”  

Emergency boxes are stations scattered throughout campus with a blue light on top. If someone presses the red emergency button, the blue light flashes and university police immediately respond.  

About 50 students, administrators, community members and university police officers went on the walk together to identify dangerous areas on campus and brainstorm solutions in response to the recent number of crimes on campus.

“It’s obvious we’ve got some work to do, but things like this really help,” University Police Chief Sara Morris said. “It helps us identify things that have become commonplace.”  

Students voiced concern for areas with insufficient lighting, bushes in need of trimming and the distance between emergency call boxes.

The attendees split into two groups: one led by Agnew and Capt. Corey Herl, who covered the eastern part of the main campus. Officer Jeff Albert and Capt. Guy Schroeder walked the western half of the main campus with the second group. WSU’s main campus is near 21st and Hillside streets.

University police officers took detailed notes about students’ concerns and Paul Lytle, building systems engineer for WSU Architectural & Engineering Service, followed the group to help answer questions about lighting.

“For me this is really helpful, honestly,” freshman Akayla Portley-Steward said. “Now, at least I know the places to avoid until there is better lighting, and I do feel safer now that I know where some of the emergency lights are.”  

Morris said she thought the safety walk was a success.

“I think it’s really interesting — some of the concepts students are coming up with and the problems they are identifying,” Morris said. “They are really getting their eyes opened to situational awareness, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Part of creating situational awareness included Morris and Herl hiding in bushes and around corners. They usually remained invisible to students, even when they knew they were there.

“Do you notice how you can hear me before you can see me?” Herl said, as he emerged from behind a bush.

One of the keys to situational awareness is keeping your eyes and ears open, Herl said. He proved his point later in the evening when a jogger in a red shirt with headphones ran past the group. “Hey!” Herl shouted. “Red shirt!” The jogger didn’t slow down or change pace.

“Can you imagine if you were in trouble, how bad you would feel if you were shouting for help and someone ran past you with headphones and couldn’t hear you,” Herl said.

Students said they enjoyed the experience.

“I feel this would be beneficial for other students to do,” Portley-Steward said. “Maybe doing a walk around campus to know what risks they do have if they’re not paying attention, or if they have their ear buds in.”