Belmont Resident Passing Raises Questions About Campus Safety by Diego Acuna Ortega

Over the weekend of September 16-17, Belmont Police officials came to the campus to recover the body of a city resident that passed away. While no students or school property were in danger that night, it does spark questions on how secure the campus is from emergencies to outside threats.

Every year, the public safety office publishes their annual security report, which has records of various offenses and incidents that happen on campus, giving an estimate of what incidents occur the most. There are a few cases of theft and sexual harassment each year, but the towering offense compared to all the others is disciplinary action for alcohol and drug abuse. While all other offenses stay in lower, single-digit numbers, there were 64 liquor law violations in 2016 and 89 violations in 2015, virtually all of which happened on campus.

The director of Public Safety, William Palmini, who has had 49 years of police experience and publish two books on his career, said that the real problem “is when these kids get drunk and invite people they don’t even know to the campus… these people with alterior motives.” These actions endanger the safety of all students on campus.

Aside from the problems with alcohol, there aren’t any other major problems, indicating that the campus is pretty safe. However, there are always issues that aren’t reported. When asked about how often offenses like sexual harassment and domestic abuse are reported to authorities, junior Russell Mecua said, “maybe people don’t report it because they are too afraid to speak out or make the situation worse and make it public.”

The nature of sexual assault and domestic abuse makes it difficult to speak out about it because of the sensitivity of the subject, and because there is no way to know how many of these unreported events happen, there is no way to know how it compares to the data that we do know.

When asked about the same subject, Palmini said that these victims likely don’t speak out because of the stigma in society that comes with sexual or domestic abuse. “They don’t want to go to court; they don’t want to continue reliving that experience.”

The director also stated that these victims should “definitely speak out, because it’s not their fault. And by not reporting, it leaves the man or woman… free to continue abuse.” By being brave and reporting their perpetrators, they help remove the people that make the campus less safe.

Resident Assistant Yojani Ulloa said that the housing department focuses on liability. They don’t want “students who shouldn’t be responsible to be responsible”, and try to respond to situations as quickly as possible, sometimes with public safety. “We’re also really good with confidentiality”, she added. “We make sure no one outside of the situation gets to know.”

Public Safety officers and RA’s are always available 24/7 in case of an emergency. They have plans for any situation and are ready to help students with anything they may need. As Palmini stated about public safety as a whole, “it sounds overused, but we’re here to protect and serve.”

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