Safety Strategies for College Students
The end of winter break calls for a refresher on campus safety tips.
Whether you are a student, a parent, or university faculty, this post will outline important crime prevention and defense insights.
Safety Strategies for College Students
While college campuses are typically safe, most are open spaces that the general public can access. This means the entire community can visit the campus. It also means that higher-crime neighborhoods may influence what goes on at a nearby university.
Students and faculty should arm themselves with safety strategies to avoid falling victim to a crime. In addition, community members should learn about how the school addresses crime, handles threats, and prepares for emergency situations.
But above all else, it’s important to take note of the following safety tips:
Call the campus escort service.
Security staff generally patrol college campuses during office hours. If you plan to walk around campus after hours, you may want to call your university’s escort service. Most schools offer a program where additional security staff or volunteers can escort students to their final destination for free. So whether you’re going to your car or back to your dorm room, prioritize your safety and request a free escort.
Secure your dorm room or home.
Dorms typically have a built-in security program—think secure entrances, common-area cameras, and automatic locks. But regardless of whether you live in campus housing, you’ll want to go the extra mile in securing your space. Lock all of your doors at night, close your windows, and never open or hold exterior doors for strangers. Avoid leaving your keys sitting around in public spaces or in your jacket pocket.
Use good judgment at night.
Some students have evening classes. Others like to work out after dark, attend events on campus, or visit with friends. Whatever your plans, avoid walking alone at night. (Here’s a reminder to save the phone number of your campus escort service to your phone.) Steer clear of shortcuts that you don’t know well, and always travel where there is lots of light and activity. It’s much easier to ask for help in busy areas.
Report suspicious activity.
Keep an eye out for suspicious people on campus. If you feel uneasy, call campus security immediately. Stay alert by paying close attention to your surroundings and observing questionable activity. This may include loitering at strange hours or locations, showing troubling psychiatric symptoms, or trying door handles. Don’t question your intuition—you won’t get in trouble for making a reporting error.
Important College Safety Questions
Students and faculty should also be aware of how the university manages campus security. Consider the following questions to learn more about how the college approaches community safety:
What safety services are available to the community?
Support services may vary depending on the size and location of the school. Features like key-card access, safe-ride and escort services, and university police departments tend to bring peace of mind. Many campuses also have a special first-year security orientation for students. This program is designed for officers to connect with students and inform them of important campus safety procedures.
How does the university communicate with students and faculty in an emergency?
Depending on the severity and urgency of the incident, colleges may communicate with students via text, email, or by issuing a lockdown. Text alerts are common in emergency situations like severe weather, an anonymous threat, or an active shooter. If you have questions about your school’s emergency protocol, check the university’s website. There you’ll almost definitely find all of the relevant safety details.
What is the college’s protocol for drug and alcohol abuse?
Underage students may choose to experiment with drugs or alcohol on campus. Handling these issues can be challenging for universities. Some colleges may issue fines, while others may require students to enter counseling or complete community service. The protocol may vary depending on whether the student is caught drinking or doing drugs. College students can consult their handbook for more information.
How does the school handle hazing?
It may seem like it’s all in good fun, but hazing can be dangerous and damaging. It tends to involve excessive drinking, sleep deprivation, isolation, or humiliation. And while there is no federal anti-hazing law, 44 states currently have anti-hazing legislation. Additionally, universities typically have their own protocol for hazing—one that may include suspension, removal from a student group, or even expulsion.
Who should you contact if you feel unsafe?
If you need help, you’ll want to know right away where to go. In addition to the police, plan to locate your campus health center and police station. Pay close attention to where emergency phones are located on campus, and add key phone numbers to your cell phone contacts so that you can access them easily. Many schools also offer complimentary psychological services for students to process an incident.
In college and in life, awareness is the first step in protecting yourself from harm. By keeping the above questions and strategies in mind, you can have a safe and enjoyable university experience.
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