October 7, 2004

Students Rally for a Safer Collegetown

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“Say it loud so they can hear, we don’t need to live in fear!” These words echoed through the streets in front of the Schwartz Auditorium last night at 6 p.m.

With a small group of supporters standing in front of him, Pradeep Giri ’05, treasurer of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, shouted many chants through a megaphone to rally support for a resolution to “Collegetown Creeper” intrusion incidents and safer off-campus housing solutions. Attendees walked from the rally to the Ithaca City Hall at 7 p.m. to express their views at yesterday’s Common Council meeting.

Among the rally participants were students, members from the Cornell Women’s Resource Center and a sergeant from the Cornell University Police Department. Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, also made an appearance at the rally.

As the rally cries persisted, students held signs with statements such as “Honk if you hate the creeper!” With every loud beep of a horn, students became louder with chants including, “We have the power, we have the right! The streets are ours, take back the night,” and “If we can’t sleep at night then we can’t study right!”

CWRC Director Kelly Connison said that the rally differed from the one in front of Day Hall yesterday because of the march to City Hall.

“[The Common Council] is who can actually do things about the Creeper. She added that by marching to City Hall, their viewpoint would make an added impact because “students rarely attend Common Council meetings. Hopefully by marching they will get the message that this is important.”

Katy Griffin ’07, co-president of the CWRC, said that the point of last night’s rally was to “raise awareness and show that students are upset and angry about this peeping tom who has repeatedly struck without any action being taken that we can see.”

Griffin also mentioned that she would like to see the city of Ithaca and the University come together to be more effective in their investigation.

“We want to make sure something is being done,” she said.

Murphy attended the rally last night for a period of time toward the beginning of the event. When questioned why there was no representative from the administration at yesterday’s rally, she responded, “It was due to scheduling conflicts,” mentioning other meetings as the restricting factor. She added that the lack of representation was “not meant to be unsupportive.”

Murphy also wanted to point out that she “never received the original letter” from the CWRC advisory board.

“I’m sorry that it didn’t happen,” she said, but she pledged that the administration would issue a statement today at the Student Assembly meeting. Murphy also added that a written response from the administration concerning the demands for safer housing and a safer Collegetown would be issued sometime next week.

The rally continued as students made their way to the Common Council meeting and filled in the back of the room as the meeting began without interruption. Attendees were then given a maximum of three minutes to voice their concerns. Esther Dickinson ’06 spoke about the Cornell students’ fear due to a lack of information. She proposed that there be a joint resolution between the Cornell administration and city officials, saying that the group of protesters had already gone to the administration.

“We don’t feel safe in Collegetown,” Dickinson said.

Giri argued that the Ithaca Police Department had shown insensitivity to victims after recent attacks. He expressed fear that students will become more passive about reporting crimes if they feel unfairly treated by the police.

“We ask the Ithaca police be given more sensitivity training,” Giri said.

Erica Kagan ’05, president of the S.A. and a member of the CWRC, told the council that the S.A. was trying to support students and raise awareness, especially about locking windows and doors. Kagan also said that the S.A. had no control over Collegetown or the Ithaca Police and urged the Common Council to make students more aware of what precautions are in place for their safety.

“Students still feel nothing is being done,” Kagan said.

Ithaca mayor Carolyn Peterson responded to student fears with promises of help and expressions of concern over the Creeper issues. Peterson told students that their first resource should be the Ithaca Police, saying that they could be very helpful on issues of security.

Several other Common Council members echoed her concerns. Many complimented the students’ initiative in speaking to the council and offered basic suggestions for protecting individual students.

“I’m really glad young women on campus are not taking [the incidents] as a given,” said council member Maria Coles (D-1st ward).

Common Council member Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th ward), said he had talked to the police and that he wanted to use the combined resources of Cornell and the city to make Collegetown safe from the Creeper.

Students were also advised to call 911 immediately and “report anything” by Gayraud Townsend ’05 (D-4th ward).

Acting Deputy Police Chief Thomas Graziani said outside of the meeting that student concern was an excellent idea because it gave a raised level of awareness about the Creeper. He warned students not to take the Creeper lightly because the police do not know what he will do next.

“[It is] necessary to make students aware that you can’t trust anyone,” Graziani said.

Archived article by Stephanie Wickham and Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writers