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How UVM is working to address student concerns about safety in Burlington | #schoolsaftey

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Students are getting ready to return to campus at the University of Vermont and the school is working to make sure they are safe. Some students say they are feeling a change in the city when it comes to safety. The school tells me they are aware of those concerns.

For now, it’s a quiet campus but soon students will return to UVM for the fall semester.

UVM Chief Safety and Compliance Officer Michael Schirling says going into this year, there is an extra focus on safety.

“We do hear from students and parents a level of discomfort with the disorder that they see in the downtown in particular,” Schirling said.

New this year, UVM is modernizing their CATSafe app which will give students a mobile two-way safety communications platform and safety tool. This comes with the phasing out of the blue light security system around campus.

“It is both informational but has the ability to enable communication, both voice communication via the virtual blue light feature,” Schirling said.

As downtown Burlington faces a rise in drugs and crime, Schirling, who is a former city police chief and state public safety commissioner, acknowledges the safety concerns for students when they are off campus.

“It has become a more challenging landscape and the university recognizes that,” he said. “It’s something our community just needs to be mindful of and we need to do our best to provide supports for those folks and accountability when its necessary.”

Students say safety is an increasing concern for those living off campus or heading downtown.

“I’m definitely aware of my safety changing in my time here,” said Brady Hill, a UVM junior.

“I hear people talking about it a lot just in random conversations in the dining halls, in class,” said Jacob Ray, a UVM junior.

Students say they’ve become much more aware of drug use and harassment in the downtown.

“You can ask any college student that goes downtown on a Thursday through Saturday night,” said Nehemiah Arnold, a UVM senior. “It’s just kind of a known thing within the nightlife.”

“Burlington is so small scale, so we see it more because it’s so concentrated, so it’s sad to see but I think I also have hope that we can come together as a community and do something about it,” said Hattie Tetzlaff, a UVM senior.

I told you recently about safety concerns Champlain College students have raised about the dorms on St. Paul Street in downtown Burlington. The school responded and told me they are adding more security features including anti-loitering barriers in the window sills, disconnecting guest Wi-Fi and garage electrical outlets and locked fencing around the dumpster.

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