By Michael Wunder, News Editor
A little after 9:30 p.m June 6, UNO graduate Laura Aust left her first class as a graduate student. Because she didn’t have a permit, Aust had parked along the one-way road just down the hill on the East side of the Arts and Sciences building. It was light out when she parked, but Aust discovered that after dark the one-way Elmwood Park service road was an unsettling place to be.
“There’s no streetlights,” Aust said. “It’s pitch dark at night. I decided it wasn’t a good idea [to walk to her car alone].”
Aust decided to go back into ASH and request help. She took one of the emergency phones from the wall and dialed Campus Security. She told them she wanted a ride to her car.
“I said, ‘it’s really dark and it doesn’t look really safe,'” she told dispatch before requesting an escort. Campus Security denied her request.
After inquiring why, she said she was told Campus Security “can’t patrol that area,” but if she “happened to see a campus security guy drive by,” she could ask for a ride.
Aust works at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where Campus Security frequently offers escorts to non-campus property.
“If they do that there [UNMC], I thought, I’m sure they do that at UNO,” Aust said. “If he truly couldn’t give me a ride, there are other things that can be done. If he would have sent someone to watch me, I would have been perfectly fine with that.”
Campus Security does offer to send officers to watch students make their way to their cars when they feel unsafe, said Paul Kosel, UNO Campus Security manager. Rides are offered as well.
“We will provide escorts as long as it’s on campus property,” Kosel said.
In situations where a student is parked off-campus – even in Elmwood Park – and feels unsafe, Campus Security does not offer remedy.
“I do not feel safe at UNO campus knowing that this is the type of service provided by our security,” Aust wrote in a letter to Campus Security, hoping to bring about changes to procedure. “I understand that not everyone can be given a ride to their vehicle, but when a younger woman takes the time to call security and ask for help because she does not feel safe, I find it unbelievable that she is turned down without being offered an alternative solution to the problem.”
For now, Campus Security doesn’t plan to make any changes to procedure, Kosel said. He said he couldn’t think of any time a student had been attacked walking from campus to their vehicle. Aust’s letter is the first complaint he’s received in “five or more” years.
Kosel said the dispatcher with which Aust spoke did offer to send someone to oversee her walk to her car.
Aust remembers differently.
Eventually, she called a friend for a ride, but there was no answer. She then called someone else and remained on the phone until she reached her car. She got home safe, though she was bothered by her discussion with Campus Security.
“I felt like he was saying, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s too bad,'” Aust said. “I think there were other things that could’ve been done that weren’t addressed and weren’t offered.”
The experience was “really scary,” which is why Aust sent her letter to Campus Security.
“I don’t ever want to be in that situation again,” she said. “And I don’t want anyone else in that situation again, either.”