O’Keeffe: Fearful students create a divide

If safety and crime are a concern amongst students, then they should take an active role within our community to directly address their concerns. This is our community. Each and every one of us chose to attend Case Western Reserve University and, in doing so, we chose to move to Cleveland and make University Circle our home. University Circle and Cleveland are not merely locales we are drifting through as we get our degrees and move onto the next step of our lives, they are our homes. Just as it is the responsibility of each roommate to keep a suite clean, it is the responsibility of every resident to keep our community safe and thriving. Thus we all play a role in shaping our community and the burden falls onto all of us to strengthen every aspect of it.

Decreasing crime and increasing safety on campus and in our community is not an “us” versus “them” problem. It is a “we” problem. When we leave problems for the police to deal with and frame the problem as “us”, the temporary college students and victims, versus “them,” the perpetrators and Cleveland residents, we reinforce stereotypes and underlying fears. This does nothing to combat crime or build a safer community; all it does it build walls and misunderstandings.

Rather than waiting for the police to apprehend petty thieves while we maintain a death grip on our smartphones every time we pass someone who looks “different” from us, let’s embrace our community and the place we choose to make home.

Through interacting with community members beyond sharing a line in Chipotle Mexican Grill, we can disband our assumptions and fears. If we understand our community in its entirety beyond the skewed police blotter and security alerts, maybe we will come to find that crime isn’t a problem in our community after all.

Furthermore truly embracing our community means committing ourselves to its improvement. This can be achieved through a variety of means, but primarily through service. Service, when done thoughtfully, is an incredibly effective way of creating positive, lasting change within a community.
We are not at CWRU for a fleeting moment of our lives, we are here for the long four-year grind. Let us not consider our community a temporary zip code. Rather let’s own up to our community, disband barriers and assumptions, actively involve ourselves within the broader community and ultimately strengthen our community together.

Heather O’Keeffe is a fourth-year student who lives near campus.