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Campuses facing security concerns

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The recent arrest of Paul Sambursky has University of North Dakota officials worried about safety issues and their institutions' image.


GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The recent arrest of Paul Sambursky has University of North Dakota officials worried about safety issues and their institutions' image.

Sambursky, 28, faces charges in five sexual assaults and a disorderly conduct complaint.

He had been attending classes and teaching as a physics assistant at UND until he was charged March 6.

Two months later, as spring semester enters its final week, safety issues remain a concern.

"Some of the questions are why people weren't notified," said UND Police Chief Duane Czapiewski. "The public was notified at the time of the events."


Campus police posted flyers on campus and along a bike path where three attacks took place. The media, including the Dakota Student newspaper, printed details of the charges after Sambursky's arrest.

Amber Gust, a 21-year-old UND junior, said police talked to her sorority about safety issues and encouraged students to walk or exercise in pairs, especially at night.

"I know there is crime here," she said. "You need to be aware of it, but I'm not going to be afraid to run at night."

She jogs regularly and often goes with a friend. But sometimes Gust will go alone.

"Overall, I feel safe," she said. "I don't think about it."

Her one safety concern is the web of underground tunnels between residence halls.

An attack early Sept. 28 has gone unsolved. Police are looking for a suspect who sexually assaulted a woman in one of the tunnels.

Czapiewski said police don't have any leads.


However, UND isn't alone when it comes to reports of violent attacks. Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University each faced similar reports this school year.

At North Dakota State University, police received two reports of sexual assault on campus in 2002.

A Nov. 16 incident prompted a woman to call police after another student invited her back to his on-campus apartment, where he attempted to have sexual contact with her. Last month, local prosecutors declined to press charges in the case.

And women at MSUM say administrators don't take threatening behavior by men seriously.

Last week, about a dozen women rallied outside MSUM's library in a peaceful protest against harassing and derogatory comments by men. Incidents earlier in the semester, including whistling and catcalling, prompted the protest.

"We're just educating people on campus," said Ruth Meberg, a 21-year-old MSUM student. "Security isn't the cause of the violence. It's the people who are doing it."

The women suggested more can be done to address safety issues: Better lighting, adding security phones, all-night staffing in women's' residence halls, offering self-defense classes and placing offenders on sexual harassment probation.

University officials disciplined students after one woman complained about students yelling out of a residence hall window, said Doug Hamilton, executive director of university advancement.


"At least in this part of the country, we're probably safer than a community of the same size," he said. "We take security very seriously. We know parents and students expect a safe environment."

MSUM has a policy against harassment but officials can't release details of sanctions handed down, he said.

Officials from each of the universities point to several safety measures used to protect students.

Each campus employs full-time police or security officers who often work closely with city police. Shuttle and escort services offer 24-hour protection for treks across campus if a student requests. NDSU and UND each have security phones for emergencies.

But there is only so much campus officials can do to protect students.

"In reality, anyone can be a victim," Glen Hase, an advocate for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo. "College students might be in a higher-risk bracket because of their behaviors."

Most offenders, particularly in sex-related cases, know the victim, she said.

"It's a lot more common for acquaintance rape," Hase said. "It's a crime of power and anger."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Steven P. Wagner at (701) 241-5542

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