A Need for Change

Letter, Martin A. Massengale to Don Wesely

In May of 1983 the Women’s Journal-Advocate wrote an article describing the lack of safety women felt at UNL, particularly in Love Library and Nebraska Hall.  “University Police included the following incidents in a list of 60 reports of criminal activity in or near Love Library between January 1982 and March, 1983:  2 indecent exposures; 2 sexual assaults; 1 robbery in which the woman was dragged into a stairwell, bound, gagged and disrobed; 3 ‘trespasses’ (1 involved a male in a women’s restroom and another involved a male who was engaging in ‘suggestive behavior’); and 3 ‘disturbances’ that involved males either masturbating or touching ‘non-intimate parts of a woman’s body’.”  With a list like this, it was evident that there was need for a change.  The main question that arose was ‘How is a woman suppose to adequately further her education when she cannot even visit Love Library without feeling a sense of danger?”. 

Before security measures had been implemented by the Chancellor at UNL, the administrators at the library had taken things into their own hands.  Upon being hired at Love Library, employees were offered a self-defense class and the women were told they could ask another staff member to accompany them to any part of the library if they felt unsafe going there alone.  However, these precautions are not something an employee should have to take when hired at a University library.  Every person should have the right to work and learn in a safe environment, however the University of Nebraska was not offering this.

Interviews from women at UNL in 1983:

UNL faculty member:  ‘I know numerous women students who have experienced sexual assaults or harassment at Love Library.  I personally use the library only during the daytime hours.  It’s time something was done to make all areas of the library safe for women’.”

Library staff member:  ‘We don’t feel safe here, and I worry about the freshmen and sophomore women who don’t know they should be cautious.  We need more security guards, better lighting in some areas, alarm systems—but the budget is so tight, and no one really seems to be willing to do anything’.”

Victim of assault at Love Library 1982:  ‘My concern is for the safety of women working alone in the library.  After I got over the initial shock of the attack on me, I began to worry about other women using the library.  Libraries have always been some of my favorite places.  I am doubly outraged because libraries need to be secure places where women can do research and enjoy reading without fear of personal assault’.”

 Even though it was clearly evident that many women at UNL did not feel safe, it was almost as if the University was trying to keep the occurrences quiet.  For example, when a man entered a women’s restroom in Love Library, walked around, then entered a stall next to a woman and talked to her over the stall, the Daily Nebraskan’s report only read “Trespasser reported in women’s restroom of Love Library”.  Even when Nebraska Senator Wesely personally wrote Chancellor Massengale a letter requesting a list of sexual assaults and indecent exposures, the Chancellor would not oblige.  Because of pressure from the women at UNL, journals such as the Woman’s Journal-Advocate, and even Senator Wesely, more efficient security was to be implemented by the University.