Your finals week edition of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.
• In chasing a few folks around last week trying to find out what was up with a lighted path scheduled for 12th Street in the Oread Neighborhood, I came across something else rather interesting.
Before we get into that, though, long story short: There’s not much new with the lighted pathway. The project still hinges on a federal grant that the city hopes to hear about in April or May.
But I was talking with Libby Johnson, a KU senior from Lawrence who is the chairwoman of something called the Campus Safety Advisory Board.
Our chat eventually got around to why the Campus Safety Advisory Board (a subsidiary of Student Senate) had so much money to throw around. I assumed that was because it charged a student fee.
Turns out, that’s sort of correct and sort of incorrect. A little history, first.
There was a $2 campus safety fee that students paid in 2008, but Student Senate decided to get rid of it that. Johnson said that’s because the committee was stockpiling the money instead of spending it. Stockpiling it to the tune of $480,000.
So after the campus fee was eliminated, the Campus Safety Advisory Board was left looking for projects to fund. They decided to give $100,000 to the lighted path project. That made sense — it would create a heavily traveled route between campus and downtown. A lighted path provides opportunities for witnesses to spot criminals in the act from afar, and provides a sort of strength-in-numbers effect, as more people would choose to walk in an area they knew was well-lit late at night.
And then, I asked what the committee’s looking at doing next (they’ve still got about $230,000 in their pile of cash).
“Flashlights,” Johnson said.
It’s still just an idea, but the committee is seriously looking at giving every incoming freshman a keychain-sized flashlight to carry around with them. It’s kind of a way of bringing a light for students wherever they go, Johnson explained to me.
They’ve done some groundwork on this — Johnson said they’ve approached the KU Public Safety Office, and found out that high-quality, LED flashlights could be available for under $1 per light. And they’re looking at advertising opportunities where companies could slap their logo on the lights to raise more money for the project.
After I hung up the phone, I got to thinking about a few things. Are flashlights really an effective crime deterrent? Do they make people significantly safer?
I realize that the student senate has a wide latitude to spend students’ own money as they see fit, and I understand the reasons behind that.
But am I the only one with these kinds of questions? Are there proper bidding processes to get the best returns on this committee’s six-figure investment? Is anyone else watching these groups, or advising these students on some other options on how to make KU a safer place? Just wondering…
• Here’s some Heard on the Hill kudos for Nick Shields, a student in KU’s School of Allied Health who has already managed to find a way to save someone’s life.
Shields received a commendation from the Kansas City, Mo., police department for running over to a neighbor’s house while celebrating his nephew’s birthday, and administering CPR on a child who had fallen into a pool.
Shields has worked for six years as a critical care nurse, and has a pretty interesting story. You can read all about him here.
• Here’s a bonus anecdote that I gathered while working on last weekend’s story about KU students who learned how to commit fraud so they could guard against it.
One student’s mother — a Washburn University professor (I’m withholding names to prevent any embarrassment) — e-mailed her daughter, who was in the graduate forensic accounting course.
She’d been confronted with a classic fraud scenario, reminiscent of those Nigerian check-cashing schemes, but targeted specifically to her.
A “student” e-mailed her seeking, ostensibly, some tutoring assistance. The e-mails looked legitimate, until she got a familiar-sounding request to cash a check and keep a part of the money, and send the rest back to an account before she’d ever met the student.
Suspecting something was up, she e-mailed her daughter, who was able to determine that the check was probably fraudulent, and would in all likelihood have bounced if her mother tried to cash it.
The sad part about all this? The professor took the case — and the check — to the attorney general’s office, and they told her that they simply had too many similar cases to fully investigate all of them.
• You never need a flashlight to show you the way to send me tips for Heard on the Hill. Just fire up your e-mail and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.