Texas Southern University deputy police chief Remon Green assured a room full of students that their safety was his top priority roughly 17 times on Wednesday night.
After four shootings on or near campus in six weeks, TSU officials held a two-hour panel to discuss how they plan to safely implement Texas's new campus-carry law effective next year — and also how they plan to handle the increased problems the campus is having right now.
According to the university's website, TSU security has added three more patrol shifts to housing and dorms. Students are upset about an 11 p.m. curfew, but Dean William Saunders explained their safety was more important. Security will now be doing random room checks. An outside security company has been engaged so the university could provide 24/7 patrol on campus.
“I assure you,” Green said as he took the podium, “we are doing everything that we can.”
“Your safety is our No. 1 priority,” Green said two minutes later, “and I assure you every day that I come to this office, that is our No. 1 priority — your safety.”
So when I left the meeting to walk back to my car, parked about ten minutes away on Tierwester near Alabama, I figured I would be followed by security vehicles. I left the student center around 9:30 p.m., and save for some students loitering on the steps outside, the rest of the campus was pretty much deserted.
One pro-campus-carry student had just picked the university to pieces over how it focused on restrictive gun laws instead of simply fixing its broken street lights all across campus — the latter pretty noticeable as I walked. But after waiting for subways alone in New York at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. for three months, walking alone on poorly lit university pathways at 9:30 p.m. did not necessarily make me feel like a daredevil in any sense of the word. Especially after being assured 17 times that safety is top priority.
I was not followed by security. In fact, I did not see any security at all, not even while I walked on campus. Instead, about halfway to my car, I was followed by a man with a gold tooth, wearing a black do-rag and baggy shorts long enough to be pants. He approached me and asked, “Do you have any change?” I said no, sorry. “Cigarettes?” No, sorry. Then he got close enough to me to whisper in my ear and wanted to know, what was I doing here, walking on this street alone at night? Don't I know what has been going on on these streets? You know, the shootings and all that?
Not wanting to explain that I was a newspaper reporter who was there to cover a meeting about increased campus safety and how the university plans to handle the campus-carry law, I said I was visiting a friend, and that yes, I was leaving. Bye now, yep, I'm going home. On my way right now.
He kept following. “Where do you live?” He was wondering if he could come home with me so we could “you know, have some fun?” Then he waited by my passenger-side door asking one last time for a ride as I fumbled for my keys, A dude sitting on his doorstep laughed at the gold-tooth guy's dirty comments.
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I wondered as I got in if the Texas Legislature's precious new campus-carry law would have helped me in that situation. Let me whip out a gun — that'll show him I mean business!
Then that seemed a little ridiculous and I thought of what seemed like a better solution that might help the students who have to walk here every day: How about if security actually patrolled the campus, as promised incessantly? Or, more important, its surrounding areas, where off-campus dwellers are bound to be walking to their apartments or cars.
I was parked across from a giant parking lot and garage that was TSU property. I was walking roughly 200 feet away from campus. Right before I had stepped off the campus, about 50 feet from where I was approached, I thought I had seen one of those little emergency buttons that you can press and security will come right away — another potential solution other than a gun, or even security not being present. But it was dark, and I couldn't tell.
The next day, as I was passing through, I stopped to take a closer look. It was just a broken street light.