York University will arm its security staff with handcuffs, batons and bulletproof vests. It’s an effort to make students feel safer on campus.
One unnamed source told The Toronto Star that the move is clearly being made to fight future enrollment drops that could stem from perceptions that York is unsafe after high-profile crimes on and near the Toronto campus this year. Wallace Pidgeon, an official York spokesperson, refutes this claim.*
As of August 3, 40 fewer students had confirmed enrollment at York than had one year earlier, according to the Ontario University Application Centre. That’s a 0.6 per cent drop in a year when confirmations grew by 2.0 per cent overall.
The drop came after four crimes in three months caused students to demand more protection. Between April and July, there were two alleged sexual assaults, an alleged hate crime and the murder of Qian Liu, which made headlines around the world because Liu was talking to her boyfriend in China via webcam when the killer entered her home near York. Faizan Ali, 30, was arrested in the sexual assaults and Brian Dickson, 29, will face trial in January for Liu’s death.
The university has long had a policy of non-intervention, which means security staff are supposed to call police if they see a crime, rather than confronting the assailant. An independent safety audit last year suggested that they should switch to a “force response model.”
York spokesman Wallace Pidgeon told The Star that the university would not confirm any changes to their security policy until they had discussed them with employees. However, he did confirm that the university will hire another 12 security staff, boosting the team from 50 to 62 members.
*After publication, Wallace Pidgeon, an official spokesperson for York University, called Maclean’s On Campus to clarify the school’s position that there is no relationship between the new safety measures at York and the violence that has occurred on and near campus. He points out that York had 1.8 per cent more applications from Ontario high school students this year and that the school continues to accept new students into the fall. He also noted that international student confirmations at York are up from 882 in 2010 to 1,529 so far this year.