York students rally to discuss safety - Macleans.ca

York students rally to discuss safety

Students divided over ideas like key cards and more policing


The crowd outside Vari Hall on Wednesday

After five crimes on campus at York University last week—two armed robberies, an assault where a student was struck with a piece of metal, and two sexual assaults—students gathered outside of York’s Vari Hall on Wednesday afternoon to rally for improvements to safety at the university.

Fewer than 100 people attended, a number much lower than the more than 1,300 who had confirmed on Facebook that they would attend.

Kasra Amidi-Rad, one of the rally’s organizers, gave the opening speech. “During the past few weeks there have been incidents that have occurred in a very, very rapid pace and we would like to come up with a list of suggestions,” he said, adding, “we will present them to the president during the open forum tomorrow.”

The President’s Open Forum on Campus Safety, on Thursday at noon in Founders College, will allow students, faculty and staff to offer safety ideas to administration and the Toronto Police.

Amidi-Rad and Navid Khan moderated the rally, urging students not to be shy about participating in the discussion. Following their speeches, students were invited to take the megaphone.

The idea of increasing the police presence was brought up a number of times by different students and gained mixed reactions from those gathered. Some booed and some clapped.

“It depends on how many officers we have coming to the school and patrolling it,” Robert Krasny, a fourth-year student and president of Vanier College, told the crowd. “If you want hundreds of police… then York University is just going to look like a prison,” he said.

Those in favour of additional police officers argued that the current number of security officers on campus is too low to monitor the actions of 55,000 students and prevent crime. Joanne Rider, of York media relations, notes that the staff includes 46 security officials, supervisors and squad leaders, seven campus relations employees, 21 residence watch officials and more.

Additional suggestions at the rally included creating a police station right on York’s campus and having security services headquarters in all major buildings on campus.

Some expressed their anger about hearing fellow students debasing their school and saying that York security offices are “doing nothing” in light of the recent crimes.

“I’ve been here for four years and it upsets me to hear people blindly, ignorantly bashing the entire institution as a whole,” said Bahar Madani, a fourth-year biology student. She said that security is doing their best with the resources they have and that students must look out for each other.

Amidi-Rad and Khan both said they are in favour of a key card access system for all buildings on campus and asked the crowd to share their opinions on the pros and cons of the idea. Students voiced only cons about this system including possible racial profiling if students forget their key card, and students holding doors open for people as often occurs in residence buildings.

Michelle Le, a fourth-year health studies student says she think there should be better communication between security and students and that this could be improved by including a list of contacts at the end of the security bulletins that are sent out after crimes. “We get a notification through email, but it’s a one-way email,” she adds. “We can’t email back asking questions.”

Janet Morrison, vice-provost students at York University, says there are tensions around certain security solutions in the York community. “Some people want more police. Some people do not want police. Some people want more security in buildings, some people do not.”

“The richness of the York community,” adds Morrison, is that “we can have constructive discussions about those tensions in a way that makes everybody feel like their opinions are valued.”


York students rally to discuss safety

  1. It’s great that York students are taking initiative in the safety of the community. You can’t expect the university itself to come up with all the solutions. Students, the community, police and the university all need to work together in order to get things accomplished.

  2. I’m glad I don’t go to York University. I think the school needs more surveillance and security.

  3. The assaults at York are getting absolutely out of hand. Students are not scared to go to campus because they are all thinking that something might happen if they do go. So some students, including myself, stopped going to school for about two weeks, for my OWN safety. It was good that students took a stand. Now if only the President would do something about it and not just send out emails saying “we are increasing safety on campus” – because we all know there is no increase of safety on campus.

  4. As a past York student I have to say it’s shocking that so much crime happens so frequently on the campus now. Students obviously need to make MORE noise so university officials actually do something and soon. Kudos to the students who took a stand and participated in the rally. Some of these ideas sound like they might be worth looking into — esp the key cards. York is a great place but clearly needs some new security restructuring.

  5. Five crimes in one week? That’s insane. York needs to start listening to students and making sure they’re safe at school.

  6. Thanks for shedding some light on this issue as our local newspapers have failed to do so! York recently signed a multi million dollar contract to have the Pan Am stadium built on it’s campus; its no wonder that the school is attempting to dodge any bad publicity even if it is at the expense of its students. A special thanks to reporters like Melissa who bring attention to safety issues such as this one and kudos to Macleans for allowing her to do so.

  7. Rally was a good idea I guess but it’s really sad that so little people ended up showing up. And the crimes just keep continuing! This week there was another sexual assault. Honestly, students need to hold another rally and much larger this time. The president’s open forum wasn’t that great of an outlet to really get our ideas heard either.

  8. Actually, 300+ students attended, some left while others came back