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Ask the Right Questions: Addressing Campus Safety Concerns

Between heavy course loads, paying for school and part-time jobs and internships, safety should be the least of your concerns.

Elizabeth Hoyt

June 04, 2015

Ask the Right Questions: Addressing Campus Safety Concerns
If you’ve read the news recently, campus crime statistics have become an alarming issue to students and parents alike. While campus safety and crime is not a fun subject to talk about, it is an imperative one. Students and their families have become increasingly concerned about campus safety and rightfully so. Therefore, while the subject isn’t as pleasant in nature, it is necessary to address. It’s important to take action in order to ensure your safety by understanding what your school is doing to keep you safe.
You have a right to know – after all, you’re paying enough in tuition! Between heavy course loads, paying for school and part-time jobs and internships, safety should be the least of your concerns. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. However, you can calm some concerns by understanding the protocols in place that are working to keep you from becoming another victim of a campus crime. Additionally, it’s important to remember that staying educated and asking the right questions can make all the difference in remaining safe on your college campus.
It’s important to know that “colleges are required by federal law to establish standard protocols for many campus safety concern,” according to U.S. News & World Report. With all of the news coming about campuses with alarming policies on sexual assault and other crimes, it’s important to become familiar with your school’s policies. That way, you can ensure that you’re attending a school where you feel safe and protected – should something terrible occur. Plus, asking these questions signals to college officials that this issue is important to students and their families. Basically, you’re highlighting that you’re aware of the issues and you, as a student, expect your school to address your concerns. It’s your right as a student.
As a result, many schools will place a more significant emphasis on detailing these policies (if they have not already). So, what questions should you be asking? Whether you're headed to college as a freshman in the fall or are a current student, you have a right to know if your school is doing enough to prioritize YOUR safety. Here are some suggestions of questions that students and their families can (and should) ask college officials to learn more about campus safety policies at a particular school: 1. What is the college doing to keep students safe on campus?
This is an important question to gain a general understanding of a college’s safety policies and procedures set in place. 2. What policies are set in place for students who are victims of campus crimes?
You want to know that, given an unspeakable scenario, your school will protect you and your well-being. It’s important to know that there are policies set in place to ensure this. 3. What are this year’s campus crime statistics?
This can give you a general idea of the amount of crime on campus but be careful – because data can be misleading. Campus crimes can range from all sorts of petty theft to sexual assault so try to get a breakdown, if possible. 4. What about this year’s sexual assault statistics, specifically?
As stated before, it’s important to understand recent data involving a particular school’s crime rates. Since sexual assault has becoming a growing campus concern across the nation, it may be beneficial for you to obtain specific date pertaining specifically to the recent sexual assault statistics.
Keep in mind, however, that, “less than 5% of completed or attempted rapes against college women were reported to law enforcement,” according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center. That means that the statistics may not reflect the actual number of sexual crimes taking place. 5. Are there police stationed on campus? If so, what is the ratio of police to students or the approximate number of police stationed on campus by area?
While most campuses have police (whether they are local police stationed on campus or a campus police force) it’s important to ensure that the amount of protection is well within ratio of the statistics, campus size and the student body numbers. 6. Does the university rely on campus police or are local city or county police in charge of campus safety?
This is important to know because you want to know exactly who is expected to be protecting you – and who you should be contacting in the event of an emergency (other than 911, if a serious emergency occurs) you need to report. 7. In the event of a sexual assault or harassment allegation, who is in charge of the investigation?
A school should be transparent about their policies. Ask who would handle sexual assault allegations, simply because you have a right to know. 8. Does the college’ disciplinary board receive training on how to conduct a sexual assault investigation? If so, what type of training do they receive?
This question is pertinent because you should feel confident that, in the event of an investigation, you are in capable, trained professionals that will be able to handle your situation. 9. What type of programs are available to educate students on campus safety?
When it comes to campus safety, education is critical. And, each school should have policies in place to make students aware of safety risks and concerns. 10. How does the college work to protect students living off campus?
Just because students live off-campus, does not mean that they do not have the same right to safety as other on-campus students. The National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics’ study, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women,” reported, “Off-campus sexual victimization is much more common among college women than on-campus victimization. Of victims of completed rape 33.7% were victimized on campus and 66.3% off campus.” Ask about how local police work with the school to ensure the safety of students off campus, too. 11. Does the school have any safe transportation policies? If so, what are they and what are the hours of operations?
Some schools provide buses, safe rides and other means of transportation for students to ensure that they always have a safe route home, especially at night. Check to see what the school offers, if it’s free and the hours of operation. 12. Has alcohol, drug abuse and sexual assault been a significant issue on campus?
Why ask this question? Well, according to a report entitled, “Correlates of Rape While Intoxicated in a National Sample of College Women,” there are plenty of alarming statistics in which drug and alcohol abuse is significantly tied to sexual assault. The student found that, “one in 20 (4.7%) women reported being raped in college since the beginning of the year – a period of approximately 7 months – and nearly three quarters of those rapes (72%) happened with the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse.” This may be a difficult answer to get a college official to answer; however, it is your right as a student to be aware of such issues. Ask about the correlation between campus issues and those particular crimes to see if any parallels can be drawn. 13. How do you handle allegations of sexual assault made by students?
More specifically, ask them to outline the policy in place. Ask the school official to walk you through the protocol of what a student bringing up an issue entails. A National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics’ study reported, “among college women, 9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.” Perhaps even more alarmingly, the study reported that “almost 12.8% of completed rapes, 35% of attempted rapes, and 22.9% of threatened rapes happened during a date.” That makes it increasingly difficult for students to come forward. As a result, any policies set in place should ensure the victim’s safety, comfort and protection. 14. What’s the school’s policy for students who have been accused of sexual violence, harassment or other crimes of that nature?
Through the news, we’ve hear stories of victims being forced to coexist on campus with their attackers, which is seriously not okay. And, with the aforementioned facts about students knowing their attackers, it makes it that much more difficult to, not only come forward, but move forward knowing their attacker is still nearby. Find out if the school has a zero tolerance policy, if a student must be found guilty of the crime before being expelled from the university or if a student is automatically put on leave when such serious allegations are brought to light. 15. Are there any campus help lines in place for victims of sexual assault or harassment?
This is useful information to have. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it but it’s important to keep, just in case. 16. Moving forward, are you establishing any new policies you feel will be more effective in maintaining and assuring students’ safety?
It’s good to know that a college is thinking ahead and always coming up with additional methods to keep students safe. As crimes evolve, the policies preventing them should do the same. 17. In the event of an emergency, how does the school communicate with students?
Your school should have policies set in place – whether they include emails, texts, campus signage or sounding alarms to alert students to danger. It’s important to make sure that this policy includes a way to reach students who are not connected to cell phones or emails at the time of danger, for whatever reason.

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