Student safety on and off campus

An NUI Maynooth student, Kym Owens, remains in an induced coma following what is believed to be an assault, on November 20th of last year. Kym sustained two broken eye sockets, a fractured jaw, a broken nose, and lost several teeth during the alleged assault which happened after she got off her bus, having returned from a weekend at home in Co. Monaghan. Gardaí issued appeals for witnesses to come forward, however, to date Gardaí have not released further information in relation to any information obtained during this appeal.

A theory has emerged that perhaps Kym may have been struck by a vehicle that was carrying an awkward load, however, there has been no clarification of this by Gardaí. While this is still very much an open case, it also poses the question: Are universities taking all the necessary precautions in the name of student safety?

The website ‘UCD estates’, for University College Dublin, offers safety guidelines for those living in UCD accommodation. Suggestions such as the “buddy system”, “trusting your instincts” and letting housemates know when you will be arriving or returning to the house. Students, especially women, have been given tips on staying safe on campus, and on nights out, which are easily accessible via the Internet.

Kym Owens was not on a night out, she was not out with friends; she had returned on the bus on a Sunday evening at approximately 8:30pm from a visit to her family home. She was very close to her digs, and was attacked while walking towards them. In these circumstances, asking for someone to accompany her most likely her wouldn’t have crossed her mind.

A suggested solution is for universities to introduce proper surveillance or CCTV in areas nearby and on their campuses. Talking with 1st year DCU student Catherine Gallagher, she explained that walking to her on-campus accommodation at night makes her feel unsafe, and her worry is based on what she perceives to be a lack of surveillance on alleyways, and around streets close to campus.

Catherine, who has a physical disability (which affects her mobility), also noted how she needs to make additional arrangements when she goes out, including taxi journeys or asking friends to walk to the bus stop. “If young, able-bodied people feel vulnerable at night, how could someone in my case feel safe?”  Gallagher asks.

The tragedy of the attack on Kym Owens’ is that it seems no one has any answers for what happened, a young woman remains in a coma, and she may not have any answers either.

Perhaps it’s time for universities to be more aware of the surrounding areas that are housing their students, and make male and female students alike become more aware of personal safety at college.

The advice, to students, considering the horrendous attack on Kym Owens, seems to be that all students must look out for each other in order to make university a safe and positive experience for everyone.

Elayna Keller