Letter to the editor

The Ohio State Safety Task Force finally came out with its recommendations, which primarily involve the creation of a “respectful campus culture” that includes all modes of transportation, with future changes yet to come. More concrete plans concern “enhanced signage,” an Oval “dismount zone” and “reducing overall traffic.” While the “Message from Jay Kasey and Javaune Adams-Gaston” could have used less focus group jargon, I do see the need for some of these proposals.
I also noted some glaring omissions. I was not alone. The Lantern published an editorial which complained not only about the late report, but also about the lack of timely, substantial changes which recent campus accidents cry out for. Online Lantern article comments are likewise incredulous that certain factors were ignored. Commentators posit that the new semester system coupled with OSU’s rampant construction projects have increased congestion with predictable results. Other comments call attention to increasing student (mis)use of portable electronic devices, encouraging lack of awareness. The official “Message” ignores these factors.
Earlier, upon the announcement of the Task Force’s creation, I had written to Dr. Adams-Gaston (Dr. J) with my own ideas. I told her that awareness was paramount, that it can be taught, and suggested that we combine accident safety with assault prevention training, since many of the teaching tools were the same. I mentioned that an OSU professor, Dr. Jack Nasar, had already done a study on the use of cell phones and crime, and he indicated he may be interested in helping out. In fact, I copied him after receiving no immediate response to my emails to Dr. J. Dr. Nasar agreed that citizens exercising “guardianship” over their surroundings was an important component of safety. After about a week had gone by with no word, I sent my third and final email to Dr. J, as well as a printed copy of the email string through campus mail. It’s now been several weeks with no response.
Instead of complaining, here are my recommendations, some of which I am volunteering to help implement immediately:
-Teach alertness for both crime and accident prevention. There can be multiple formats, but for maximum effectiveness, they should attract students, not be forced upon them. Emphasize that each one of us is ultimately responsible for our own safety. Tools such as the “Color Code,” using “carrots and sticks” and “warning signs” apply to all alertness training.
-Address the prevalence of portable electronic devices and examine their effects on personal safety, especially as “distraction devices.” Furthermore, these technologies have introduced new ways to inform and possibly, offer “teaching moments” of their own. This should be explored, preferably with the aid of those younger than me.
-There needs to be greater recognition from top OSU officials that campus lies adjacent to one of Columbus’ highest crime areas. Crime and accident prevention education is a lifelong learning skill set for everyone which extends well beyond the campus years and environs. A comprehensive, “whole”-istic, investment in harnessing student, staff and faculty energies now will result in potential benefits far into the future.

Karl Spaulding
Citizen and OSU employee