Safety in a small city

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As I was walking on campus on March 24, I overheard a tour guide tell prospective UVM students and parents that she had never felt unsafe in Burlington, that she frequently walks through the downtown area alone at midnight or later and rarely feels threatened.

This is an extremely inappropriate comment to make to prospective students of any university, whether it is located in a small town, city or otherwise.  

While Burlington does not have bulletproof glass on its fast food restaurants as some urban neighborhoods do, it is far from being a place where someone – male or female – should be told to walk around alone and careless.  

The Burlington metropolitan area, according to the 2009 U.S. Census, holds one-third of Vermont’s population. Not all of that population acts like cuddly bunnies.

Both women and men have been assaulted, violently or sexually, on and off campus. No student should treat this issue lightly, especially one representing the University.  

Tour guides should express the realities of the school and city, and their various safety threats.  They should not lure new students into a false sense of small town security.  This causes young students to act carelessly, unaware of potential dangers.  

Rather than listen to administrators at orientation lectures on safety statistics, I fear entering students will rely on the word of these student leaders who tell them otherwise.

It is a harsh reality that there are people in the world that prey on the vulnerable and unaware, but it is a reality. Burlington is no different.  

This comment’s nonchalant attitude toward safety undermines the experiences of assault victims in Burlington. Yet, students often hold no qualms about making similar statements.

It is important to keep in mind that the absent-minded, inappropriate comment of one person sparked this column. The ignorant comment, however, represents a larger feeling of the student population.

Many students are falsely swayed into a sense of negligence due to the popular feeling that Burlington is a small place. Vermonters are courteous drivers, so they must all be nice, safe people, right?

I frequently hear friends refuse to be walked home. This occurs despite awareness of assaults in Burlington, a reality made well known through UVM police memos and personal anecdotes. People who chose to disregard this take an unnecessary risk because of a false sense of small town security.  

Just because the walk is short, it does not mean that late-night wanderers should forget to stay safe and keep alert.