Toronto’s York University in Toronto is once again in the news for a major security problem. And, once again, people are asking many questions about how York is dealing with security issues on behalf of its 54,000 students.
In the latest incident, a man was charged for three alleged sexual assaults on Thursday July 5, 2012. A suspect was arrested the following Monday and charged with seven counts relating to the assaults with police saying they used video surveillance in finding the accused. Since then a total of five women have come forward in saying they were assaulted.
York has been plagued with security issues for years.
In January of this year, a suspected peeping Tom was spotted hiding in women’s washrooms on campus, and in February, police arrested a man who they allege fired a shotgun blast through an apartment door that is located on the York campus.
In 2011, York security personnel were armed with handcuffs and batons in light of sexual assaults on students, as Veridin wrote about last summer. As CBC reported, there was a string of sexual assaults in 2010, and two women were sexually assaulted in their dorms in 2007. And in 1986 a female student was raped at knifepoint.
The questions being asked this week about the current York incident generally fall into two categories:
1) What can York security do to protect students against sexual assaults?
2) Should the university have told more students earlier about the alleged assaults of last week?
On the first point, York is temporarily increasing the security presence on its Keele campus through increased foot and vehicle patrols. Victims reported being assaulted by a man after leaving a TTC bus stop in front of Vari Hall, a student concourse. York is also working closely with Toronto Police in handling the case and talking to students about campus safety.
The timing issue, though, is vexing many people.
According to the Toronto Star, university officials said an internal security bulletin was posted on York’s security website the night of the alleged assaults, and revised Friday after additional assaults were reported. A mass email was then sent to students on Monday, four days after the alleged assaults. York also tweeted about the arrests to its 13,500+ Twitter followers on Monday.
Several students, however, feel that York could have done more to inform them of the problems.
Vanessa Hunt, President of the York Federation of Students, told the Toronto Star that the university’s news portal, YFile, should have made efforts to notify students online sooner.
“Whether or not a thousand students read it, it should be on there,” Hunt said. “It should be publicized. People need to know what’s going on.”
She added that while the university did post security bulletins across campus, they could have done more.
“We keep pushing. They could really do better for communications with students.”
Campus security is always very challenging, especially when considering a campus on the scale of York’s.
And, as the recent assaults very unfortunately illustrate, a campus security strategy that combines highly trained and visible security personnel, CCTV and other security technology, close coordination with local police, security awareness programs and crisis communication protocols can still, on occasion, not be enough to protect students from danger.