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COMSTOCK: Taught Fear: stepping outside the shelter of campus

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The other night, I received an email alerting me that someone had posted about a robbery in a Marquette forum that had parents up in arms. Apparently, USPS has been redirecting packages to “USPS access points” when the customer isn’t home to sign. These access points allow pickup at any time during the day as opposed to USPS’ specific afternoon hours. For Marquette students, your packages will likely be redirected to Pick & Choose Grocery on the north side of State Street. As any freshman can tell you, across State Street is somewhere you just don’t go. No questions asked.

So naturally, I was not happy when I got a “Sorry we missed you!” post-it on my door. Not only did my package bear zero need for a signature, but it meant I would have to go to Pick & Choose when I got out of my night class. A knee-jerk reaction, I mentioned it to my mom on the phone to which she more or less responded, “And?”

I felt stupid afterwards. In my four years on this campus, I have never been threatened or robbed on the streets of Milwaukee. In fact, the only time I was robbed was when another student took my entire basket of laundry from the Straz Tower laundry room.

Yet many (not all) of us have developed this convoluted image of Avenues West and Marquette’s campus as somewhere that isn’t safe, and we aren’t really to blame. From the very beginning of our college careers at Marquette, we are told to never walk alone at night, not to flash (or hold) iPhones in plain sight and of course, never go past State Street. The fear has been consistently spoon-fed to us from resident assistants, parents and peers. Unfortunately, the fear has evolved into a reputation. “Isn’t Marquette in a rough area?” prospective Marquette parents ask.

It’s as if us suburban college students were shocked to arrive in Milwaukee and find out it is, in fact, a city. In a city, you learn a whole new set of sense rules. You become aware of your surroundings, and learn to be more independent. While common sense says you should catch a LIMO instead of walking, or leave your laptop at home if possible, we should realize that these tips are not unique to Milwaukee or anywhere in the world. We should fight the inclination to be on the defense the minute we step out of the door, and I sometimes have to remind myself of that.

Maybe that requires some reflection on why Marquette is situated where it is (as opposed to a small college town) and the Jesuit principles behind the decision. Maybe it takes questioning the stark contrast between Marquette’s campus and huge southern state schools with lazy rivers and resort-like dorm buildings. What do we want from a college experience: a four-year break from reality, or invaluable lessons on how to be a better citizen and person?

Crimes happen on campus; no one is denying that. They happen on every college campus. Bring a large group of people together in one area, and well, that’s what happens. We deserve to feel safe on campus, but at some point, we have to learn to be responsible adults too.

Challenging a perception is perhaps harder than challenging an actual threat, but the neighborhood needs us to rise to that challenge. Perception has the power to shut out local businesses and create a bubble that makes us all the more vulnerable. I picked up my package. Believe it or not, I was greeted with a smile.

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1 Comment

One Response to “COMSTOCK: Taught Fear: stepping outside the shelter of campus”

  1. Margaret Schmank Martinic on February 5th, 2016 1:56 pm

    I agree with this well written article! I unfortunately think that no matter where any college campus is located, a robbery or any kind of ” situation” may happen due to, as this author said, the large size of a group of people living together in an area!
    My husband and I graduated from MU in 1979 and during our junior year one of our friends unfortunately was mugged and a camera was stolen from around his neck! This situation made me more aware of my surroundings and I NEVER walked alone in the dark at MU! I understand that the some of the underprivileged minorities of Milwaukee residents are unemployed and this sets up the situation of those who “have and those who have little or nothing” and will do anything to get money or anything they can turn into money! It’s terrible that MU students become targets of these unfortunate types. I urge students, my son included who is currently a junior, to please be careful out there and be wise as to where you are walking. Our two daughters graduated from MU in 2004 and 2006 without any problems…never would have sent my son to MU if I thought his safety was a problem.

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