Walking down UF Fraternity Row, one might take note of the tall facades of three identical southern-style mansions facing out towards the street or the surprising presence of ample parking, an all-too-precious commodity on such a crowded campus. What’s the most remarkable feature? The noticeable lack of emergency blue lights – the stationary police hotlines equipped with cameras which seem ever-present on the rest of campus. This information is truly disconcerting when it is taken into account that an approximated 33 percent of the campus’s sexual assaults take place here, and 58 percent take place in nearby dorms.
Thanks to the efforts of multiple victims and activists, a bill that would increase the numbers of emergency blue lights and place them on Fraternity Row moved through UF Student Government this past April. That motion, unfortunately, failed by a 37-36 vote. And it’s not like this kind of action is unprecedented — it’s common sense. The University of Central Florida and the University of Southern Florida both have about four of these emergency stations surrounding their Greek housing, and UCF is in the process of building even more.
To be fair, critics argue that these emergency stations are becoming obsolete, and they’re not entirely incorrect. Students have cell phones, and cell phones have emergency apps. More often than not, students use their personal devices to call the authorities instead of these stations, which can cost around $200 a year for each one’s individual upkeep. However, it would be misleading to say that these lights are completely ineffective as they do make students feel safer and work as a deterrent for malign behavior in their vicinity.
On Tuesday, a protest was held on Fraternity Row pleading for the installation of these stations and for a readmission of April’s failed bill. UF SG Senator Zachary Amrose, the author of the aforementioned bill, said it was frustrating that the conversation surrounding the bill focused so deeply on what the fraternities wanted instead of the safety of the students in question. However, since the events of April, the UF Interfraternity Council has released a statement saying that none of the fraternities opposed the installation of new blue lights anywhere on campus, and following the protests, installation has the public support of University Police and UF administration.
The fact that all of this comes on the heels of an attempted sexual assault case at UF seems to beg for immediate action. On Aug. 25, 21-year-old resident assistant Ian Milaski attempted to sexually assault a female student in his room. According to police reports, as she attempted to leave, he “grabbed her and physically picked her up off the ground and positioned himself on top of her… he kept trying to finger her and refused to let her go despite her cries to stop.”
He was charged with battery and false imprisonment and pleaded not guilty. He was released in early September after his attorney argued that he was a “high-achieving student.” Yet again, society’s willingness to protect young men from their “mistakes” has trumped the rule of justice in a court of law.
Myles Gibbs is a UF journalism junior