Canadian university increases security measures

Carleton University spends $1.6M revamping security following sexual assault


In the wake of last year's brutal sexual assault in a campus science lab, Carleton University is beefing up security.

Touting a new "culture of safety," president and vice-chancellor Roseann Runte has announced a $1.6-million investment in campus security measures.

The university ordered a comprehensive personal safety audit last fall after a 24-year-old female student was viciously beaten, tied up and sexually assaulted in a third-floor laboratory in the Steacie Building.

The assault, which occurred after midnight on Sept. 1, 2007, sent shockwaves through the university community, just as the fall semester was about to begin.

"I don't think anybody felt totally safe after the situation that occurred last year," said Runte. "One is always anxious to improve security and safety. Obviously the incidents of last year prompted us to look at it, particularly at this time."

Campus security came under fire on several occasions throughout the academic year, notably when freshman Nadia Kajouji went missing from her campus dorm room in March, sparking a frantic search for the 18-year-old Brampton girl.

Her body was found on the edge of the Rideau River six weeks later, the victim of an apparent suicide.

The university was also red-faced in January after a set of master keys went missing.

Yesterday, Len Boudreault, campus security chief, deferred questions about the sexual assault to Ottawa police, who have no suspects in the investigation.

Investigators assigned to the case were unavailable for comment.

In January, the university distributed a personal safety survey to students, staff and faculty. Of the 1,700 who responded, most said they felt safe on campus.

SAFE CAMPUS

"We felt confident going into this that we had a safe campus," said Boudreault. "I think that the work that we've done has indicated there may be some vulnerabilities, and we've all worked as a team to address those and to improve the situation for our community and our students, staff and faculty."

Carleton officials also pointed to several disturbing trends in the survey results.

The majority of female students who reported feeling unsafe on campus also said they did not know who to contact if they felt their security was being threatened.

And less than 25% of students were aware of the school's designated safe walk pathway and the Safe Spaces Program.

Runte said those numbers indicate the school needs to do more to raise awareness and increase visibility of security measures in place.

The school has complemented existing measures by adding new closed-circuit cameras, exterior emergency phones, special constables and student patrol officers.

The Steacie Building is being fitted with a swipe card entry system for after-hours use.

'SHAKEN UP'

Carleton also becomes the second Ontario university with a staff member dedicated to sexual assault education and co-ordination of support services and counselling.

"Time will tell whether or not these safety measures will actually work," said Lesley Vaage, vice-president of Carleton's grad students' association. "Obviously with the high-profile incidents that occurred last year, everyone's a little bit shaken up."

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DANGER ZONE

- Sept 1, 2007: A 24-year-old female student severely beaten and sexually assaulted by a male in a third-floor lab in Steacie Building. Her jaw is broken and shoulder dislocated.

- Dec. 6: A woman is assaulted at 5 a.m. near the Dundas House residence, on the same day women rally on campus to mark the Montreal Massacre anniversary.

- Jan. 18, 2008: Carleton issues a warning to students after a master set of maintenance keys goes missing. Locks in affected buildings are changed.

- Jan. 23: Three Carleton students are killed and two others hospitalized after their SUV is sideswiped by an OC Transpo bus. Police believe alcohol is a factor in the crash, and survivors admit to drinking at a campus pub before driving to a west-end bar.

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