Safety FAQs From College Students
Safety FAQs From College Students
Michael Dorn and Sonayia Shepherd (School Safety Analysts) gives expert video advice on: What are the most common threats to college campus safety?; How can I assess the safety of my college dorm?; How can I stay safe walking to and from campus? and more...
What are the most common threats to college campus safety?
One of the most common threats we see on a college campus is student behavior itself. Very commonly, students on campus involved with safety incidents where there's some type of death or injury have been involved with drinking or use of drugs; and one of the first things I think college students need to understand is that they are at much higher level of risk when they've been drinking or using drugs, and their judgment may be impaired. Often we see young people who are not used to alcohol indulging to a far greater degree, and from the incident this year where a student was cut in half by an elevator to people falling out of balconies to drunk driving accidents to sexual assaults, armed robbery and homicide. A lot of times, we see that type of connection. The next is probably where the student is in a completely new environment. They may know the risks in their home community, but now maybe we're away from home as a student and not aware of dangers in and around our campus, and not taking the time to find out what are the things you should be concerned about as a student for this campus and its surrounding neighborhood.
What are signs of 'suspicious behavior' on a college campus?
A college campus is a place where you sometimes see things that are out of the ordinary. First of all, if you see something that makes you nervous, pay attention to it. I was almost robbed by two individuals while I was a university police officer, when I was jogging after hours and I just noticed that their behavior didn't look right. They crossed the street to my side of the street and so forth and I averted an armed robbery by paying attention to that. If you see something that bothers you, pay attention to your inner instinct. It may be the way a vehicle drives slowly, a vehicle driving without lights, or it may be someone's behavior and actions to you. If someone, for example, looks around and they then approach you, that can be an area of concern because they may be looking for witnesses or police, and that in itself might not be that big of a deal, but it could be. It could be the initial thing that you see that causes you concern, and because you're looking, you see two other things that tell you that this is a really dangerous situation so that you act appropriately.
What should I do if I suspect another college student is dangerous?
If you suspect someone may be dangerous, collect your thoughts, think about why that is, and then approach whoever you feel is most appropriate for your college or university. For example, the university I worked at and attended, that would had been Bass University Police and may be student services. There is probably information given out in the student handbook as to how those reports should be made, but usually either mental health services or campus safety security or law enforcement are the best route to go. I would say that it's almost always a safe bet these days to go to University police, particularly with the recent event at Virginia Tech and the recent shootings at other colleges. There is a lot of awareness there that those types of reports should be responded to. Collect your thoughts, make your points clear, and try to be tangible in what you tell, whoever you tell, to describe why you're feeling the way you're feeling, and what your concerns are.
What should I do if I'm being stalked on my college campus?
If you're being stalked, I would immediately notify campus police or campus safety officials or appropriate local police. Make sure that you don't do anything to further the situation. If you have got an individual you are having problems with, and you communicate that you don't want to have contact with them, don't use them, and initiate contact a week later. Don't encourage the situation to get out of hand by contributing to it. Make sure that you think about your situation, and work within the resources that you have. Be a bit extra alert as you travel about day and night to your surroundings, to people around you, things like locking your door. Essentially, the basic things that work to make people safer will be even more important to you if you're in the situation.
Can something like the Virginia Tech shooting happen at my college?
Virginia Tech is one of the worst incidents we've had on a campus. It's not the worst, but it's the worst shooting on a college campus in the United States. Aggravated assault and homicide rates for American institutions of higher learning are about three times more common than at K-12 schools. At the same time, that type of shooting situation is extraordinarily rare. They're very low-frequency, high-consequence events. You are a lot more likely to be victimized in other ways than a planned, multiple-victim shooting. It's a concern and it's a risk, but it's definitely not your greatest risk on a college or university campus.