Enough is enough. We all felt the horror when Letitia Davis was brutally assaulted in Fairmount Park and later died from her injuries. In the months before that, there were reports of assaults, car break-ins and other crimes in the area south of campus.
Yes, we live in the largest city in the state, and yes, crime will happen. But, enough is enough. We’ve got to fix this and it’s time. That came through clearly in our Campus Safety Forum on Nov. 19. I’ve heard the same message from faculty, staff, students and neighborhood residents. I’ve said it myself.
We don't live in a bubble at Wichita State. Our success and future are tied in every way to the success of the surrounding area. We know we have the expertise and capacity on this campus to help. It is time to turn those feelings into action. We will continue to work closely with the Wichita Police Department and city officials on safety issues south of campus. The areas beyond campus are not our jurisdiction or responsibility, but we want to be partners in helping address the problems they face.
A reporter asked me last week if we are the cavalry, coming to the rescue of the neighborhood. No, we’re not the cavalry. We don't own this. We can't own this. But we can be partners in solving it. We have increased the visibility of University Police Department patrols on university property south of campus.
We can, and will, do more.
I have asked one of our most experienced administrators, Vice President and General Counsel Ted Ayres, to head a task force called Enough is Enough, to focus on creating safe, economically vibrant neighborhoods near campus. Ted’s extensive knowledge of the campus and the community, and his dedication to Wichita State, make him the ideal person to take the lead in marshaling campus resources to address safety issues in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, especially in the Fairmount Park area that has so recently suffered such a great blow.
We are fortunate that the president of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association is Darryl Carrington, who has deep ties to WSU, both as a Physical Plant employee and student in the College of Health Professions. Many of our faculty, staff, students and alumni live in the neighborhood. We want to partner with the neighborhood association, city government, the Ministerial League and all other people of good will who care about these issues. I met with the Fairmount Neighborhood Association members last summer and we will be in continuing discussions with Darryl and others about how we can help.
The university doesn't want to be in charge, but we want to offer the expertise of our faculty and staff and the energy of our committed students to help in all the ways we can. We want to empower WSU people to be engaged in this process, and to be active participants, not just bystanders. Safety is not only a responsibility of the administration and law enforcement.
We have tied our future as a university to the future of this metropolitan area and south-central Kansas. That has been the history of this university and I certainly put it right in the forefront.
We can't be successful if the community isn't successful. And that means at the end of the day, that if we’re going to be able to help turn the job situation, help diversify the economic base, to give people a hand up instead of a handout, then we have to partner to help solve these issues.
If you want to help, please contact Ted Ayres, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In memory of Letitia S. Davis
Feb. 22, 1978 – Nov. 22, 2014
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." –