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Administrators promise changes, offer support in response to student concerns about safety

Sacramento State student Michael Lee-Chang speaks during a campus forum held Nov. 17, where students shared their concerns about safety. During the forum, which Lee-Chang organized, University administrators thanked students for coming forward and promised changes. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

About 150 students gathered at Sacramento State on Thursday, Nov. 17, to share their concerns about personal safety in light of recent reports of sexual assaults on or near campus.

The gathering, organized by Sac State first-year student Michael Lee-Chang, became emotional at times as students spoke about their fears and frustrations associated with campus security, policing, reporting, and resources relative to sexual assault and violence. University administrators answered questions and said they are working on additional safety measures, including increased security surveillance and better lighting.

“I really do hear the pain in your voices,” President Robert S. Nelsen said. “We need to do everything we can to make it better.”

Sac State police are investigating four assaults that have occurred on or near campus in recent months, Lt. Harvey Woo told the gathering. In three of the cases, he said, the alleged perpetrator and the victim knew each other. Investigators have identified a man suspected in two of the reported incidents as Nida Muhammad Niazy, 31, who is not a Sac State student. 

Woo praised assault survivors for coming forward and said the department “is doing everything possible” to solve the reported crimes.

Some in the audience said they want more than just reassurances.

“It seems like safety measures are more focused on what happens after an assault,” instead of being focused on crime prevention, one student said.

“I don’t feel safe on campus anymore,” said another.

Sac State has 200 blue light emergency phones across campus that provide a direct line to police, students were told. Students and others can use them around the clock to report suspicious people, crimes in progress, and other concerns.

“I really do hear the pain in your voices. We need to do everything we can to make it better.” -- President Robert S. Nelsen

“If something you see doesn’t look right or someone is bothering you, contact the Police Department,” said Sac State Police Chief Chet Madison Jr. Members of the campus community should store the department’s dispatch number, 916-278-6000, in their phones, he said.

Jonathan Bowman, vice president for Administration and chief financial officer, said the University is replacing older light structures and evaluating lighting throughout the campus in response to safety concerns.

Students who are victims of crimes, or who have friends or acquaintances who have been affected, have access to a wide range of resources at Sac State, officials said.

Confidential Campus Advocate Laura Swartzen can help victims and their loved ones consider their rights and options as survivors of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, or stalking. Crisis intervention, advocacy, and counseling are available to Sac State students through the University’s partnership with the nonprofit group WEAVE. Those and other services around health and safety are available at The WELL on campus.

One member of the audience said the process of reporting sexual assault can be complicated and humiliating. “It puts all of the weight on the victim,” she said. “It’s so defeating.”

Mia Settles-Tidwell, the University’s vice president for Inclusive Excellence, acknowledged that the campus Title IX office, which investigates sexual assault reports, has been understaffed. She said Sac State is in the process of hiring additional personnel to improve and streamline the process.

Students also called for more educational efforts and continuing discussion around safety issues at Sac State.

“This situation needs to be treated with urgency,” said one.

Ed Mills, vice president of Student Affairs, told the group his office is working on a comprehensive information campaign offering safety information and resources. The campaign will be shared to the campus community in the coming months through a variety of online platforms, he said.

“We need to focus on the fact that this issue is all of our responsibility,” said Mills. “We need to try to stop this behavior before it starts.”

An audience, seated, in the University Union
Around 150 people attended the forum on campus safety in the University Union, which was organized by Sac State student Michael Lee-Chang. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

 

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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