Incident sparks emotions

By Bill Schwingel

The recent beating of an NIU student sparked tempers and emotions around the NIU campus, leaving many local authorities on opposing sides of the issue of increased campus violence.

Some campus groups have claimed the incident that occurred in the 900 block of Hillcrest Drive on Oct. 14 was racially motivated. However, the victim of the beating said he did not think the motive behind the incident was racism.

Violence at NIU is “definitely” on the increase and most incidents are not race related, just students with short tempers, NIU Judicial Office Director Larry Bolles said.

“Most people are resorting to violence to solve problems,” he said, adding, “You should be able to settle your differences in a discussion. Defend your point of view verbally.”

The unusual increase might be caused by students’ inability to deal with their frustrations and alcohol consumption, Bolles said. The only solution available for the increase in violence is an increase in penalties, he said.

DeKalb Police Chief Don Berke said “there has been no increase” in violence in response to the recent battery.

The number of calls from DeKalb residents concerning incidents of violence has not changed, Berke said. “I wouldn’t expect” any increase of violence because there was “no indication it was a racial incident,” he said.

University Police Lt. Ron Williams refutted the suggested rise of campus violence, denying any reports of an increase of violence at NIU. UP reports show an overall decrease of violent crimes reported to the UPs in the past three years.

When dealing with punishment for offenders, the university has assigned work assignments, counseling and a semester of probation, Bolles said.

On a few occasions, the judicial office has suspended people from NIU but those were only in extreme cases, such as when individuals used weapons, he said. This method of punishment is “clearly not enough,” he said.

Anyone who threatens a professor, faculty member, student or staff member is subject to a suspension, as well as anyone physically abusing another, Bolles said.

The university “can’t expell everybody in (violent) situations” but the judicial office can “do as much as we can,” he said.

“It’s important to do programming to discuss issues and differences” to help alleviate the tensions students may feel, said Barbara Henley, acting vice president of Student Affairs.

Safe Passage, a DeKalb home for battered women, has had an increase in victims because the center has been in the “public eye a lot” so “it’s really difficult to tell if violence is increasing or we’re seeing more of it,” said Safe Passage Director Pam Wiseman.