Last Updated: Jan 25, 2017
These campus safety tips are a must-read for every college and university student. And soon-to-be students. And probably their parents too.
Every single college and university goes to great lengths to protect its students. The most visible reminder of that is usually the campus police force or security staff, but that's really just the beginning of most college safety measures. Building/dorm security systems, call boxes in parking lots, campus escort services, and other student protections are commonplace.
Actually, college campuses tend to be safer, on average, than the average given town or city. So let that soothe your mind if you’re worried about staying safe on campus! However, even though all these campus security precautions are great, it’s important to remember that campus safety is also a personal responsibility.
Sarah Brown, a 2016 University of Utah graduate now working as a safety expert for SafeWise, on online security resource, says every student should give serious thought to safety factors. “I lived on campus for three of my four years of college, and campus safety was always on my mind,” she says. She advises students to do the same and offers these tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings when walking on campus. If you’re out on your own, you should never put yourself in a compromising position by being inebriated or distracted on your phone (or both!). Victims of attack often look confused, lost, distracted, or in need of help.
- Avoid walking alone, particularly at night. Moving as a pack of friends can give you more power because it is harder to attack a large group of people than an individual.
- Let people know where you’re going. If you’re going out, let someone know where you are going and when you intend on coming back. You and your roommates can be helpful resources to each other in this way; share your class schedules with them and make a habit of letting each other know if you’ll be gone for the night. If you’re good friends, all the better—you’ll have a common place to come home to if you all go out together, and you'll never find yourself walking home alone.
- Get to know your roommates and neighbors. This is an especially important tip if you live on your own for the first time. One of the best things you can do is to simply be friendly with your roommates and neighbors. It will give you a sense of community and a safety net, as you’ll have a larger group of people who will care about your well-being and watch out for you.
- Always opt-in to get campus alert texts sent to your phone. It’s the fastest way to find out whenever there is an incident on campus and where to stay away.
- Lock your dorm when you're not there. Sure, it's tempting to be the kids who literally always keep their door open, but dorms can be a hotbed for theft (despite sign-in and other safety systems in place). So always lock up when you leave, and make sure your roommates are on the same page too.
- Add the campus security department's emergency phone number to your speed dial.
- Familiarize yourself with the safety resources unique to your campus. For example, get to know your school’s policy on sending a shuttle or an escort if you’re concerned about getting back to campus. (Many college safety offices will also pay for things like taxi fares, so you shouldn’t worry about getting home if you don’t have any money on you.)
- Take a self-defense class. You'll probably be able to go to one for free on campus or at a local community center. And even if it seems goofy at the time, what have you got to lose by learning a couple of tips from experts?
In addition to following these campus safety tips, looking out for others is also critical. For example, take some time to think about what you’d do if you found yourself a bystander to a crime like sexual assault; sometimes, just mentally preparing yourself for situations like this can make a huge difference. Another way to protect your friends on campus is to report unsafe or suspicious situations as soon as possible, according to Detective Lieutenant Reid DeVoge of the campus police at Michigan Technological University.
“Don’t assume that something has already been reported or that someone else will handle it,” he says. “Whether it’s something as little as a door that will not secure properly to a roommate that is talking about harming themselves, reporting these types of situations enables the police and other campus officials to address the issue and help before it’s too late.”
Joanna Gallagher, Director of Public Safety at Arcadia University, says it’s important to get to know your college’s safety and security office and what they offer. “This resource can assist you in learning a multitude of different safety measures for on and off- campus incidents ranging from sexual assaults to identity theft,” she says. “You should visit your security department and become familiar with services such as emergency blue lights, safety apps, and escort or shuttle services.”