Rape fears grip UWI - Lecturers want more done to protect students travelling to and from the Mona campus
Senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Heather Ricketts, is urging the administration to examine measures to get students safely to and from the Mona campus.
Ricketts, the former head of the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, recently added her voice to those expressing concern about the safety of students, particularly females, given the reported spike in the abduction and sexual abuse of young women in recent times.
"I know we have transport-ation arrangements on the campus, but wondered whether we have a transportation policy that provides safe transport to students to the main places where students would then catch transportation to their homes," said Ricketts.
"I don't know what the answer is, but I think UWI has a responsibility, along with UTech (University of Technology) to make its voice heard in ensuring that there is safe transportation for women and men, its students, its young people," added Ricketts, as she addressed fellow lecturers, students and other stakeholders during a recent forum hosted by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies on the Mona campus.
According to Ricketts, her concerns were based on a discussion that she had with two of her students, during which one expressed her fear of taking a route taxi from the campus.
Just recently, one female UTech student shared her experience of being abducted and robbed after taking a taxi at the entrance of the university in her bid to get home, and head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Superintendent Charmine Shand, has urged women to be careful while taking taxis as more than 50 females have been abducted and raped by men purporting to be taxi operators in the last two years.
Ricketts was supported by director of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies, Professor Opal Palmer Adisa, who argued that more effort should be made in providing transportation for students who have to travel off campus.
"Most universities in the United States have transportation not just on campus, but off campus. It is a common thing, it is an important thing, because oftentimes students need to be transported," she said.
In the meantime, head of security at UWI, former assistant commissioner of police Keith 'Trinity' Gardner, said there is evidence of fear among the students on the campus as a result of the reports of abductions by taxi operators.
"You hear them talk about it all the time," said Gardner.
"They are not afraid to move on the campus per se, they are afraid to get off the campus because of what is happening, although many of them put their fears aside and are prepared to even get into the illegal taxis, because getting from one point to the other is the imperative," Gardner told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said that it is unlikely that cases of abduction would be reported to the campus security; however, he is aware of at least one case last year where a student was abducted, robbed, and taken to the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston.
UWI'S TRANSPORT OPTIONS
Gardner said that the university, which has more than 18,000 students, has made several options available to those who have to travel off the campus.
According to Gardner, students travelling to as far as Portmore and Spanish Town, St Catherine, have the option of travelling on one of a fleet of four buses provided by the Office of Student Services (OSS).
The OSS also has a bus that runs every hour, on the hour, from the Mona, St Andrew, campus to destinations close by, including as Liguanea, Papine, and Hope Pastures.
The university has also collaborated with UTech to contract buses to take students to different destinations off campus.
There is also an existing taxi policy that allows approved taxis to pick up and drop off students on the campus.