OPEN pushes safety

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Members of the OPEN party are pushing increased campus safety as part of their platform for the University of Iowa Student Government election.

This includes planning a bystander-awareness campaign and nurturing a campus environment that seeks to end “rape culture.”

Patrick Bartowski, OPEN’s presidential candidate, said safety is the No. 1 item on the party’s platform and said student input will be important going forward.

“We want to have forums to provide an outlet for students to get their ideas out and to improve the system based on their critiques,” Bartowski said.

A particular area the party hopes to gain student input on is Nite Ride.

“It would be ideal for whenever someone feels threatened,” said Yeltsin Rodriguez, an OPEN Senate candidate.

However, Rodriguez said, the party must account for the interests of the bus operators as well.

UI officials rolled out a second Nite Ride van in March as part of UI President Sally Mason’s six-point plan to combat sexual assault.

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, agreed the program had room to grow.

“We will be looking into expanding the hours of operation when we get our staffing in line,” Green said in an email.

Jeffrey Ding, the OPEN vice-presidential candidate, said in an email the party will also seek to maintain the current level of funding for SafeRide, a UISG program that offers men and women a free taxi ride home or to a medical facility once a semester.

Another part of the platform is increasing student communication with the UI police, the Chief Diversity Office, and the Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator.

The police have a number of different ways for students to get in contact with them, including emergency and non-emergency numbers, Facebook and Twitter pages, and in-person visits to the station.

Bartowski said OPEN will lobby for an increase in funding for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program and the Women’s Resource and Action Center and will also look to plan a bystander-intervention program through these organizations.

He said this intervention program could coordinate with fraternities, sororities, and the Athletics Department.

Bystander-intervention training could also occur during OnIowa training or with younger groups of students.

Long term, Rodriguez said OPEN must be proactive to make lasting change.

“We don’t want to be a reaction,” he said, “We want to make progress.”

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