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Auraria police host Campus Safe Night

Annual dialogue concerning campus safety

Thor, RTD’s bomb-sniffing dog, made a visit to Auraria on Campus Safe Night.
Photo: Benjamin Neufeld · The Sentry

On Nov. 7, the Auraria Campus Police Department hosted the Campus Safe Night in the Tivoli Turnhalle. In the words of the Auraria police chief and event emcee Michael Phibbs, the occasion served “to bring together the community.” It aimed to create a direct dialogue between the Auraria community and those responsible for the community’s well-being.  

In 2017 Auraria campus reported 59 on-campus arrests, down from 89 in 2015. US colleges and universities are required to alert students and faculty of crimes/emergencies on or near campuses. Receiving Auraria’s emergency alert emails could create safety concerns for some campus regulars. Campus Safe Night serves to address these concerns. 

RTD police officers attended the event with their bomb-sniffing police dog, Thor. They spoke with guests about the safety concerns of taking public transit and encouraged them to download RTD’s Transit Watch app, which allows bus and train riders to communicate directly with transit police in the event of a safety or security concern. 

Additionally, representatives from the Phoenix Center were present to raise awareness about the issue of interpersonal violence on college campuses. The Auraria Higher Education Center was also present to discuss emergency preparedness and campus resources available in the event of (or in preparation for) an emergency. They also handed out small kits containing an antiseptic towelette, antibiotic ointment, and band-aids. 

The LGBTQ Student Resource Center advertised their resources that students could use to create and find community and safety within that community. 

After the reception the event’s guest speaker, Dr. Katia Cambell, gave a short lecture about free speech, hate speech, and how to deal with hate speech as it is seen on the Auraria campus. Cambell, an associate professor at Metropolitan State University, had previously given a TEDx talk about this issue as it pertains to general society.  

“The First Amendment does protect hate speech,” Dr. Cambell said before making clear that she has strong feelings about the issue. She cited personal distress resultant from hate speech directed toward her throughout her life and as recently as that morning. She believes “It is serious and can have serious repercussions in society.” Despite this, she advocated for the right to free speech, saying, “We should not have censorship.” 

Instances of hate speech that a visitor of Auraria campus might encounter include harassment from self-proclaimed religious groups, bullying, clothing/signs which support hate groups, or campus newspaper editorials that support hateful ideology.  

Dr. Cambell provided strategies to safely navigate such hate speech. For example, passersby have the right to verbal response and could civilly confront and engage with the hateful speakers. Other strategies included walking away or avoiding areas where speakers usually go. 

After Dr. Cambell’s speech, Auraria police officers led groups on walks around the campus to check for functionality of emergency towers and the adequacy of campus lighting. Participants of this tour had the opportunity to address concerns they had with the safety of the campus, or certain areas of the campus, with police officers. 

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