Signing people into Penn dorms is like trying to enter one of those secret villain lairs you always see in the movies. You know -- with the numeric code, the face scan and the voice recognition. Last week when I was trying to obtain a guest pass for my boyfriend, I almost had to send him right back to Pittsburgh. It was the middle of the day, and after giving my room number, phone number, PennCard and his driver's license and school I.D., the front desk guard still wouldn't let him in because they wanted a second card with a signature on it. I was convinced my parents had called in advance and told the front desk not to let him stay here! In instances such as this, Penn's security measures can seem almost excessive. Do we, for example, really need the University's planned "biometric handprint sensors" for the dorms? But at least one aspect of this University's security system is still lacking. As indicated by the continuing stream of sexual violence and harassment on our campus over the last few years, women's safety at Penn is still far from satisfactory. This is not to say that we haven't made great strides over the years. Back in 1973, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that after a "recent rash of rapes in the University area," Penn women staged a successful protest in College Hall. Among other things, the women won improved lighting on campus, the installation of 40 emergency telephones, the formation of the Penn's Women's Center and an "investigation of improved alarm systems." These gains were certainly an amazing step, especially in the face of obstacles -- like the University's director of security at the time, who reportedly told women to protect themselves from rape by avoiding "enticing clothing." But almost 30 years later, the safety precautions on campus are still inadequate. Yes, most public bathrooms are equipped with emergency alarms; our closed circuit cameras are always watching and it is increasingly difficult to get non-residents into the dorms. But what about threats from within the student population? Having lived in the Quad freshman year, I was always shocked by the absence of bathroom safety alarms. While these precautions were always present in public University buildings, they were nowhere to be found in the concrete showers or toilet stalls of my new home. If there is significant danger to warrant these alarms around campus, shouldn't they be in the dorm's communal bathrooms as well? Penn's policy seems to indicate that the threat of violence comes only from strangers, and is absent from our own student population. According to a recent article in Cosmopolitan magazine, however, the need for increased women's safety measures both in public and private sectors of our campus is quite necessary. As the article "Danger in the dorm" reports, "In 1998, the University of Pennsylvania paid an undisclosed sum to a former student who said that the school failed to do anything after she was raped in 1994 by a school football player whom she had met on the night of her attack." If these allegations are true, it is a complete outrage that our University is not only failing to increase safety standards for women on campus, but has also suppressed important information that could motivate students to rally for stronger measures. By stronger measures, I do not mean the racist harassment that unfortunately accompanied the strides made in the 1970s. According to a DP letter to the editor in 1973, increased security often meant that, "If you are black," and on Penn's campus, "you will be picked up by the police for questioning," regardless of whether you were a student or a stranger. Women cannot work for their safety without fighting other forms of discrimination and hate crime. We need to demand increased safety standards for all University constituents. And in turn, I hope that men, too, will stand with us in the fight against sexual violence. For example, this coming week hosts Take Back the Night, a series of events aimed at fighting acquaintance rape. And as the TBTN Web site says, it takes an "entire community" to "end the violence." Yes, we as women have come a very long way since we first entered this University, but we still have a long way to go until we can feel completely comfortable within our deserved "equal opportunity." It is important that we continue to recognize and actively combat this injustice.Comments powered by Disqus
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