Night services cause controversy

Some are questioning the safety of the campus after dark, especially for those who have night classes. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Flickr)

Kaylee Johnston

Walking down to the parking lot with little-to-nothing lighting the path. Night classes, although convenient for busy student life, have brought up numerous concerns during Saddleback College meetings.

With the amount of surveillance on campus being only one patrol officer from 7-11 p.m. and two parking enforcement officers, many part-time faculty members, as well as students, have become concerned with student and faculty safety on campus.

The goal, discussed during the Saddleback College Academic Senate meeting on Nov. 6, was to approach the subject of services offered in the evening.

“As far as student services, which is the bigger issue, where do they go in the evening if they have certain needs?” Dan Walsh said. “Potentially I see this going toward the Student Success Committee, but do we just wait for them to tackle it? Or do we get a smaller group together identifying where are the problem areas, and come to the student success with ideas — that would be ideally what I’d like to think as a task force, working group, [or] sub-committee.”

Although concerns have been brought up, President Tod Burnett has seen the safety of Saddleback improve recently.

“One of the things I’m very proud of, even though we have a long way to go I believe, is we have improved tremendously our campus safety, our emergency planning and preparedness in many, many ways,” he said.

According to Carol Hilton, campus safety has been a target goal and has been constantly improved through the introduction of new permanent chief of police Christopher Wilkinson, a dispatch center and various faculty and staff activities and training requirements in safety.

Carmenmara Hernandez Bravo, chair of international language department and language lab, has voiced her concern during various meetings as well as in emails to South Orange County Community College District Chancellor Gary Poertner, Academic Senate Past President Bob Cosgrove, Dean of Online Education and Learning Resources Patricia Flanigan Chapin, and other faculty members about the lack of night services. She is adamant about students walking in groups after night classes, and offers them rides to their cars if they parked far from the school.

“I told Gary [Poertner], ‘look, because of my religion growing up (Catholicism) the nuns twist your brain with the guilt — if I don’t do this and something happens, I’ll feel guilty for the rest of my life.’ I told him ‘This is my new thing, and until you guys do something, I’m not going to stop. I will not stop,'” Hernandez Bravo said.

With parking far away during the evening already bringing up safety concerns, the closing of Lot 5 has only increased the parking difficulties.

“I feel like especially with Lot 5 being shut down, I’m really concerned about the safety and welfare of our college community in the evenings,” Flanigan said. “I would like to see us really examine how we can better serve both our students and faculty members in the evening. To be honest, if I had a daughter and she was taking an evening class and parking way out there, I’d be very concerned, so I think that’s something we really have to look at as a college and what’re the best ways to move forward with how to support our evening.”

The concerns, although mainly based around evening students and faculty, are opening the broader topic of campus safety in general.

“To me, I’m recognizing there are two different issues being raised; there’s campus safety which is day and night. It’s not just nighttime issues, it’s daytime issues as well, and then there’s student resource issues, day vs. night,” Academic Senate member Karah Street said. “I was in my office and I was watching some of my students in the parking lot down below and they were like hens in a henhouse, they all of a sudden got very crazy, and only to find out a couple of days later that they had watched two women drive into the parking lot and smash into a car that was parked. So my students went over to check on these ladies, and apparently they were incapacitated to some extent. My students called campus safety, and they retorted with — I’m getting this second-hand of course — they retorted with ‘How do you know that they are inebriated?’ [Campus safety] did not come.”

This topic is up for further discussion during the Academic Senate meeting today at 2 p.m. 

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