A recent spate of arrests at Dixie State University student housing, including two high-profile cases, is no cause for alarm, DSU officials say.
Over the last four months, a student was arrested for possession of child pornography, and more recently another student was arrested March 10.
According to Don Reid, director of public safety, Ramajah Marie Patrick was arrested for sexual solicitation. Patrick was the subject of a five-week investigation before her arrest was made.
Public Relations Director Jyl Hall said while the crimes were of a serious nature, the actions of university police should be applauded.
“I think, if anything, these incidents shine a light on how our police officers here on campus are,” Hall said. “They’ve been super proactive, they’ve worked with other agencies when they’ve needed to, they’ve prevented anything from becoming a bigger issue than it needs to be, they’ve been super professional, [and] they’ve been super on top of it.”
Joel Griffin, public relations and publications coordinator, said the case came to light by vigilant students, something that is extremely important to keep DSU campus safe.
“That’s important that students speak up,” Griffin said. “She had a private room and kept things pretty quiet. It was some of the students that caught on to it.”
Not everyone thinks DSU is particularly safe for students.
Brandon Henderson, a freshman communication major from Las Vegas, said the school is not as safe as its national ranking suggests. Henderson said he was the first person to inform officials that he suspected the student was involved with prostitution.
“We talk about sometimes [how DSU] isn’t that safe,” Henderson said. “If you think about it, if I hadn’t spoken up, they wouldn’t have known. [DSU is] safe, but at the same time, [crime] could still be happening. From a PR standpoint for the university, it looks horrible. Small university, you pride yourself on being top-50 safest college and yet you let this happen.”
Henderson said as of Thursday, Patrick was still living in the Campus View Suites after posting bail.
Due to student privacy concerns, Seth Gubler, director of housing and student life, declined to comment on the status of Patrick’s residency in the dorms.
Gubler said he was surprised by the recent arrests.
“It was nothing that has happened before since I have been here at [DSU], and it’s nothing that we anticipated to happen,” Gubler said. “(It) makes you wonder, has it happened before?”
Beyond the normal patrols by campus police, Gubler said there are multiple procedures in place to help keep students safe. Students are screened for felony records before they are accepted into dorms, and the doors at Campus View Suites are closed at 5 p.m. But despite their best efforts, no system is perfect.
“Even if someone does not have a felony or criminal background, you can’t predict what their behavior will end up being, (and you) can’t predict what choices they’ll make,” Gubler said.
Reid said his department makes every effort to ensure students are protected, but added there are limitations to what personnel can do. It is also up to students to make the campus at DSU as safe as possible.
“We’re here and we’re going to respond, but you’ve got to be concerned about your own safety,” Reid said. “Who is there better to guarantee your own safety: you or me? Our response time on campus is one to two minutes, but when you’re the victim, then it’s a matter of seconds.”
Reid said students should keep their eyes and ears open, develop an awareness of their surroundings, and always report suspicious behavior, which is what happened in the prostitution case.
Gubler also said students reporting worrisome behavior are a key cog in the chain of campus security.
“A lot of that (security) depends on whether people will report suspicious behavior —something that is concerning to them,” Gubler said. “In this case, we would have never known that this was happening had not a student come forward and said ‘I think that this is happening’ and having that dialogue with us.”
Hall also said it is important for students to be a part of security on campus.
“Everyone takes their own safety as their personal responsibility,” Hall said. “I think it is the full campus community coming together, everyone working together to make sure everyone on campus is safe.”
Hall said as the university grows, an unfortunate result of that growth means that more crime can occur, simply due to the larger population of students.
“I think that yeah, sheer numbers, as it gets larger, you have more people, you have more risks associated with that,” Hall said. “It’s just a natural part of growing. As we grow, we will continue to increase our security and certain efforts to make sure everyone stays safe.”
Reid said he agreed growth can cause an uptick in crime.
“Anytime you get 1,000 more people, you’re going to have 100 more problems,” Reid said. “That’s just the nature of anything … that’s a logical assumption.”
Despite the complexity of keeping 9,000 students safe, Hall said students should feel comforted knowing campus security is doing everything it can to protect the university.
“I think students can really feel safe knowing they have such an elite squad here on campus,” Hall said.