Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sexual Assault Prevention & Education Methods on Campus - By Sarah Abel, Shiyang Chen, Jingjing Fang, and Morgan Weibel

Students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse reconsidered campus safety issues after a sexual assault took place in Sanford Hall in September 2014. Campus police and the Violence Prevention Office have adopted measures, such as implementing the Blue Light Program, providing the “Choices and Challenges” section, and creating The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act to ensure students' safety, but few students know about them.

The Blue Light System
The victim in this fall’s assault case in Sanford Hall reported the crime, but there still remains a number of incidents that go unreported. Campus police are challenged with not only eliminating sexual assault on campus, but also creating an environment where students feel safe reporting these crimes. For instance, they have installed blue light emergency phones all around campus.

According to Scott McCollough, the Interim Chief of Police on campus, there are thirty-three blue light phone stations, all of which were updated in 2014.

“Because of these updates, the phones have more capabilities. In the past, they functioned more like a regular phone and could call any number on campus. Now, the phones function like a 911 emergency phone bank. The dispatcher answers and can ask questions about the situation taking place and the student can respond,” says McCollough. “It is a two-way communication. There is a phone outside of each residence hall and with these. The students are able to call the front desk of the hall in case they are locked out.”

McCollough also said they plan to install cameras on each phone station to improve functionality, however this decision would be up for discussion because of the assumed breach of privacy. Cameras could help identify an assailant or help the dispatcher by providing an image of the event if the student is verbally impaired. Also, the cameras could help in situations in which the phones have been used inappropriately.

“They are used by mistake many times,” says McCollough. He explains that people hit the button as a prank, or students who have been out drinking late at night hit the buttons by mistake.  
However, the phones are not a way for students to call and be escorted.  Several years ago, there was a similar system in place and Student Services provided escorts for students who didn’t feel safe walking home alone.  Many campuses still have similar services. If necessary, an officer from campus police would be able to provide an escort.

McCollough estimates that the phones only get one to two legitimate calls a year. Considering the number of students on campus and blue light phones, he regards the number is quite low, meaning one of two things: either the incidences when students feel threatened is low, or students are not aware of the phone system.

Students’ Unawareness of the Blue-light
According to the University of Wisconsin System 2012 Report on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, the campus Violence Prevention Specialist gives a presentation to all incoming freshmen at orientation, and a separate presentation is given to all incoming international students. However, as McCollough has said, those methods may have changed and the campus police are only involved if they are invited.

To examine the UW-L students’ knowledge about the Blue Light Program, a survey was conducted. 51 students, including 40 female students took the survey.

59% of the students surveyed did not know about the Safewalk Program at UW-L. The results also showed none of the students surveyed have used this Safewalk Program, because they hadn’t been taught how to use the Blue Light Emergency Phone.

78% of students have never received the information about the Safewalk Program from UW-L.

84% of the students surveyed did not know about other programs to prevent sexual assault at UW-L.

 Several students didn’t remember if they were educated about the phones or not during orientation week, despite McCollough saying they were. International Students were sure they weren’t notified about the phones. The police only give presentations at orientation when they are invited.

“It’s hit or miss, sometimes we do sometimes we don’t,” says McCollough. “I would guess that identifies a lack of education on the blue lights right there.”

The purpose of campus police is to keep students safe while on campus. The UW-L Police Department stated that a variety of blue-light emergency telephones have been strategically located throughout campus, and the telephones automatically ring to University Police when activated. Officers patrol campus at times they believe are higher risk and test the blue phones and the phones in the elevators which work in a similar way as the blue light phones.  
Office of Student Life- Violence Prevention Works to Find Ways to Prevent Sexual Assault

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse takes the safety of their students seriously. The UW-L Office of Student Life-Violence Prevention makes it their mission to help keep students safe. They assist students, faculty, and staff members with advocacy, information, and offer education, support and training to the campus community. They’ve made several changes over the past few years as the issues surrounding sexual assaults on campus have become an increasing national issue. Between the Steubenville, Ohio incident and the University of Virginia incident, it now appears on news programs and front pages daily.

Statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center have shown that reported campus sexual assaults have been on the rise. The reason for this is due to new legislation making it easier for students to report sexual assault. Recently, sexual assault on college campuses has become a part of the agenda at the White House and in Congress. President Obama commissioned a special task force on this topic and has continued to make more resources for college students and campus employees like The House of Representatives and Senate worked together to create The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

It is the Violence Prevention office’s responsibility to correctly implement programs to follow the guidelines. In recent years, there have been several changes and new programs that the office has implemented. During new student orientation, a section called, “Choices and Challenges,” is presented to the students. Students act out different possible scenarios that they may have to deal with during their college years. “Think About It,” is a new online course that all incoming students are required to take. Ingrid Peterson, Violence Prevention Specialist, also talks with students. 
Peterson explains, “It covers sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, and alcohol.”
Peterson also speaks with students around campus all year round. She thinks one of the biggest issues is our culture surrounding sexual assault.

“Too often sexual assault is not correctly identified. People may not classify being assaulted by someone they know as sexual assault,” says Ingrid. “So firstly we want people to know how to correctly identify it.”

The Office of Student Life-Violence Prevention works to prevent violent, threatening behavior. Peterson hopes by changing the culture and finding ways to continually prevent sexual assault, precautionary measures such as blue security phones or rape whistles will not necessarily be needed things anymore.

Staying Safe on Campus

After a startling event like the assault in Sanford Hall this fall, new concerns arise about the prevention of sexual assault campus wide. Students may become more aware of their surroundings for the next couple of months, but soon the hype dies down, the stories leaves the papers and life goes on.  It’s the job and responsibility of Campus Police and Student Life organizations to do all they can to prevent these events through education and campus services like the Blue Light Phones. Education may be the key to it all, but students should always look out for each other and themselves. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Origin of The Walker Tuition Freeze

By Jonathan Cook, Courtney Brusoe, Zeyao Wu, Jingyu Liang

The Walker administration pushed for an extension of the tuition freeze in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Walker tuition freeze is a restriction in the amount a UW school can charge an undergraduate student as well as a freeze of the tax support from the state. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( the reduction in revenue is estimated at $210 million across the two year freeze, accounting for a loss of $181 million in state tax support and $28 million from tuition if UW schools increased their tuition only 2% per year.

The tuition freeze legislation came as a response to a 2012 audit that found large sums of money in the unrestricted budget of UW schools. Many within the state legislature believed the large sums of money to be a malpractice that caused undergraduate students to pay more than they should, so they passed the freeze in tuition and a freeze in state funding as a reaction. $648 million was found across hundreds of accounts in unrestricted cash balances across all UW schools. The UW system claimed the majority of that balance, $441.2 million, was already planned to be used, leaving $207 million in reserve.
While “unrestricted” suggests that the fund was extra money, the balance is viewed as a savings account to cushion the blow against decreased enrollment or emergencies. The forced cap in revenue has caused many UW schools to use their savings to maintain normal functions and to pay their faculty without making deep budget cuts.

Joe Gow, Chancellor of UW – La Crosse said, “86% of the UW-L budget is to pay faculty members. If schools have a cap in revenue, they are not as competitive in recruiting top professors and not as able to maintain the highly trained staff they already have.”

Two years after the beginning of the tuition freeze, the UW school system released a 250 page budget report. This time, the system was much more transparent about where the unrestricted budget money is and what it is for. According to the report, $973 million is classified as unrestricted, but $798 million is planned for specific expenses like construction projects or new equipment. Of the remaining balance, $111 million is classified as emergency use and $64 million as discretionary. The discretionary account is less than half of what was found after the 2012 audit. The emergency fund accounts for around 3% of the total $6 billion UW budget.

The original legislation pertaining to the tuition was for two years. Therefore, if the state legislature does not renew the law the tuition freeze is scheduled to end at the end of the current 2014-2015 school year. Scott Walker and his administration was reelected for another term on a platform that includes an extension of the tuition freeze.

Many students think the tuition freeze is necessary in order to afford college. Kelsey Pierce who studied Therapeutic Recreation at UW-L, said, “I live in great pressure this semester, because I have to work three nights a week from 5:30pm to 11:59 pm, and on Sunday sometimes to earn money for my tuition. Tuition is high for me because my parents don’t pay for me. I know that they [the university] will increase tuition to maintain the quality of the university in the future, I just want them increase it within the reasonable range so I can afford it.”

Another UW-L student, Katie Faster thought that the tuition freeze was a good policy to help students graduate. “I am a lucky person,” Faster said. “My grandparents help me pay a part of tuition. Some students’ families have the ability to pay tuition, but their parents don’t pay for their children. These students cannot get financial support because of their parents’ income. It is terrible for them.” Faster really encourages tuition freeze practices on campus. Yet, Faster said, “Some of them might not have enough money to pay for faculty salary and new campus buildings because the state cut the funding.”

While a two year freeze in tuition was manageable by many universities, a further extension could be problematic. According to a 2014 UW report, some schools like UW - Superior and UW - Milwaukee are reduced to a very small savings account. UW - Superior specifically is $1.9 million in debt. UW - Milwaukee is reduced to only $1 million in reserves.

According to Chancellor Gow, “Tuition freeze is a popular topic, but providing students with a quality education is hard to provide with a frozen tuition. When the frozen tuition is ended, it will likely increase significantly to help make up for the loss.”

While the tuition freeze may sound good to current and future undergraduate students, many students admit that they don’t really understand the repercussions of the freeze on the universities.

Senior UW-L students Aimee Goodew, Amber Rodriguez, and Hannah Bartelt acknowledged that they didn’t know much about the tuition freeze. However, after becoming more aware of the negative impact on universities, the popular response of interviewees was that while they didn’t want tuition to rise, they still thought it was important for universities to maintain adequate reserves for unexpected projects and maintaining the university.

“Since I was here during the Drake fire, I know that emergency stuff like that does happen, so it is important for the university to have reserves for situations like that. I would like the tuition to be kept frozen, but I still think it’s important to have those reserves,” Goodew stated.

Similarly, Rodriguez agreed saying, “From a student’s perspective I like it [the tuition freeze] because it costs an arm and a leg to go to college. Most people can’t afford to go without taking loans. From a university perspective, it lowers the chance for a university to compete if something goes wrong--there will be no money to fix anything.”

Bartelt added, “I think the tuition freeze is good but there should be a plan for the future. That money in the unrestricted funds should be used for its original purpose, not to make up for the loss in tuition. And what’s going to happen when that unrestricted money runs out? What will the university do then?”

University officials say it is important to remember that paying tuition is more than a cost of going to school. A lot of times the tuition that is paid is for expanding university function and investing in the university’s future. Chancellor Gow said, “We [UW schools] are a not-for-profit entity. We want to increase the tuition to provide a better experience for our students.”