STORY BY JAKE BULLINGTON
Student Senate hosted a public safety forum intended to spark discussion around Public Safety and Des Moines Police policy.
However, the conversation focused almost solely on Drake students becoming more involved in the culture around the community, and breaking down the ‘mental walls’ surrounding campus. This surprised some of the 50 students and community members in attendance of the event Friday.
Diversity Interest Senator Thalia Anguiano said that although the forum didn’t go as expected, the end result was positive.
“I was a little thrown off at the fact that public safety wasn’t touched on as much as I was expecting,” Anguiano said. “But the fact that we talked about how we want to better our relationship with the Des Moines community was super good.”
Student Body President Kevin Maisto shared Anguiano’s expectation of the event.
“I thought there was going to be more of a focus from students about how to keep the neighborhood a little bit more safe, but I think everyone there understood that a positive community could then lead to a safer community,” Maisto said.
Community Outreach Senator Daniel Creese, who helped organize the forum, echoed this sentiment.
“Once the conversation shifted towards this mental wall or ‘bubble’ that students feel confined to on campus, the spotlight and dialogue shifted more towards the students, faculty and the community members,” Creese said.
One student chimed in to the conversation, saying that “we have this wall in our heads” around campus.
Wayne Ford, a 1974 graduate of Drake and founder of community organization, Urban Dreams, was present at the event.
Ford reminded attendees of a movement about a decade ago, one that proposed building walls up around Drake’s campus.
“This wall today is a mental wall. It’s worse than that physical wall,” Ford said.
Asking for tangible results of the forum, Ford added, “We don’t want to leave without having a timeline with solutions.” Community Advisory Board president Jamie Willer gave numerous suggestions for outreach including opening up 34th Street to hold a block party, and pledged CAB’s willingness to collaborate with neighborhood organizations.
Representatives from Public Safety and DMPD were also present and took notes on key points students and community members made, but did not contribute to the dialogue. This was, due in part, to the fact that the conversation had skipped over the safety aspect of the discussion almost entirely.
With the issue of outreach into the community surrounding campus discussed, there is still much to address in regards to students’ safety.
“I think it was a really great first step, but I think we really need to emphasize that this was indeed a first step,” Maisto said. “We need to take what was talked about and discussed, and the concerns that were brought up, and even some of the potential solutions and use that as ground to better the relationship between the Drake community and the neighborhood.”
Maisto wants to continue discussing Public Safety as dialogue continues.
“I think that sometimes we might need to take a step back and focus on the public safety that we’re in right now and making it a safe community for everyone,” Maisto said.
According to Student Senate, there will be a follow-up to this forum during Thursday’s Senate meeting at the fishbowl in Cowles Library at 9 p.m.
Overall, Maisto was pleased by the attendees’ engagement in the roundtable-like discussion.
“I was really excited by the participation, not just from the senators that were there, but also the other students as well as the community members who showed up,” Maisto said.
Another roundtable is planned by CAB for November 17 at 9 p.m., with a location not yet determined, further discussing the barriers between the community and Drake students.