• Collegian staff

Opinion: Oregon Capitol attracts hate groups- Campus Safety must adjust

Updated: Oct 25

Ryleigh Norgrove

Contributor

Corner of Capitol and Chemeketa St., where the racist assault occurred Mar. 1. Photo by Grace Shiffrin.

The Oregon Capitol building is a lightning rod for violence. It assembles across the street and gathers with growing intensity. It encircles our campus. Willamette University's proximity to the state capitol will continue to compromise the safety of our students unless we see substantial changes to the operations of our Campus Safety and our administration. As a student body, we aren’t asking for protections beyond our baseline safety—just the ability to walk home without being threatened or assaulted. An email full of condolences is nowhere near enough.


Over the course of this school year, multiple students have been assaulted by members of far-right extremist groups. The [latest attack] is being investigated as a hate crime. The targeted student wasn’t protesting. They were simply walking near campus. This is the third [reported instance] of a student being assaulted by members of far-right hate groups during protests at the Oregon state capitol.


Our university needs practical measures to protect students from these agitators, because what we’ve implemented thus far is inadequate. These threats and demonstrations are not new. Outsourcing the problem and hiring temporary security officers doesn’t seem to be working—armed vehicles are still driving down Winter St. and students are still being assaulted. Many students, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are living off campus. This makes any ride sharing programs inaccessible, and fails to meet the needs of students living in close proximity to these violent demonstrations. It has become increasingly apparent that our campus security is unequipped to handle the demands of working in such close proximity to the Capitol.


Woven into our hefty [tuition bill] is a number of things: a new lawn mower for the Quad, water for the coffee machine in Goudy, and the assurance that our campus is safe. So, as a student, it becomes imperative to ask, shouldn’t tuition also cover my peace of mind?


In glossy pamphlets and bold letters, our university boasts its proximity to the Oregon State Capitol. It does not, however, acknowledge the danger this presents. How can we claim to be a community that fosters political engagement while at the same time discouraging students from protesting? The solution is not to ask us to stay home or to be complicit— it is to provide resources for our activists and protect our community. Do not tell us to hide. Instead, provide a space for community engagement, healing and reflection. Let’s bring back the Thursday convocations. Let’s start a conversation within our community addressing this violence, and advocate for new safety protocols. Let’s post officers on the corners of campus during these violent rallies. Let’s make campus safety officers more accessible to students on particularly high-threat days. Let’s allow officers to drive students more than a block from campus— especially if they are put in danger. We cannot expect Campus Safety to defend students protesting but we can expect a safe place to call our home.


Our universities turn to the police to “investigate” these attacks upholds and supports systems of white supremacy. It also shies away from addressing the real problems at hand: that violence knocks at our front door and bleeds onto our campus and community. Our student body is consistently threatened, and if we do not make substantial changes to our Campus Safety initiatives this will continue to happen. The current means of ensuring safety has proven ineffective and our administration’s response demonstrates an inability to understand and act within the demands of the current moment.


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