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Bruins in Paris

UCLA’s open campus raises questions around student safety

Bruin Plaza is pictured. Students shared their opinions about UCLA’s open campus policy. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Patrick Woodham

Jan. 29, 2024 8:40 p.m.

UCLA’s open-access campus has led some students to express concerns about safety, particularly surrounding on-campus housing.

Thousands of people walk through areas such as Bruin Walk and Dickson Plaza every day, including students, faculty and staff – but also people outside the UCLA community. In an emailed statement, UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said members of the public can freely access the campus because of the university’s status as a land-grant institution.

Land-grant institutions are academic bodies that were given land by the government in order to create a university, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Outdoors spaces, certain events, and access to various educational programs are inherent in our mission, provided we maintain the safe and orderly conduct of our campus community and operations,” Vazquez said in the statement.

Some students said they find that even as an open campus, UCLA is rather safe, but they still choose to take precautions for their safety.

Daria Young, an urban and regional planning graduate student, said although she finds UCLA to be a safe campus, she still has several ways to stay safe while walking. For example, she said she sets her headphones to a lower volume than normal when walking alone, and shares her location with friends.

Alyssa Corbett, a first-year biology student, said she also thinks UCLA is a safe campus, but added that she still carries items for self-defense out of concerns regarding safety in Los Angeles in general.

However, she added that she did not feel there were any particular campus policies that have contributed to her feeling unsafe and actually feels that the campus is more inviting because it is open access.

“When you are in a big city like this, there’s going to be things that happen like that, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an open campus policy or not,” Corbett said. “If it was a closed campus, people are still going to try and get on campus.”

Nima Kamali, a first-year economics and political science student, said he generally finds UCLA to be safe while walking from his dorm to class or to get food.

Luke Ryder, a third-year philosophy student, said he thinks UCLA is a safe place during the day, and he appreciates the lighting of areas on campus in comparison to Westwood.

But Ryder said he has also heard of instances where members of the public had accessed residence halls because of the open campus. For example, one man experiencing homelessness used to sleep in the lounge of his building, he said.

Other students have had more negative experiences with members of the public entering their buildings. Kamali said one of his friends’ bags was stolen by a member of the public who came into Rieber Hall.

“We kept our bags, water bottles, laptops and everything in the Rieber Hall lobby. But when we came down, we saw a guy picking up his bag and leaving with it,” Kamali said. “He looked 40, so he’s probably not a student, but I think it was a negative experience because of the financial damage it had, having to replace laptops, phones, everything.”

When asked if there was any recent rise in issues with campus safety, Vazquez said in the statement that they have not seen an increase in any such reported incidents. When asked about active steps the university is taking to maintain the safety of students on campus, he talked about the precautions UCLA takes to make everyone, student or public, feel safe on campus.

“UCLA provides a range of support services, including the ADA/504 Compliance Office, the CARE Program for eradicating sexual and gender-based violence, Case Management Services, the Center for Accessible Education, Community Service Officers for escort services, Counseling and Psychological Services and the UCLA Police Department,” Vazquez said in the emailed statement. “Additionally, campus activities and events must adhere to UCLA policies, including but not limited to a safety assessment for major events, to mitigate disruptions and promote the safe and orderly conduct for our campus community and university functions.”

Ryder said even though his experience was not scary or harmful, he thinks UCLA should do more to stop members of the public walking around the Hill.

However, Ryder added that though he thinks more could be done, he is not particularly frustrated by the current situation.

“I definitely think there should be some sort of cracking down on the Hill, making sure unwanted visitors aren’t on the Hill, just for the safety of the students,” Ryder said. “But it doesn’t bother me to an insane degree.”

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Patrick Woodham
Woodham is a News contributor on the features and student life beat and a Copy contributor. He is also a first-year African American studies and public affairs student from Brooklyn, New York.
Woodham is a News contributor on the features and student life beat and a Copy contributor. He is also a first-year African American studies and public affairs student from Brooklyn, New York.
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