While tragic incidents like Columbine and Virginia Tech have created an increased awareness of campus safety and security, most college students reveal they still feel fairly safe on campus. A recent study by three Southern Illinois University scholars has revealed most students are not particularly worried about encountering an active shooter on campus.
The survey of more than 5000 students discusses attitudes towards on-campus crime, perceptions of risk and safety, personal experiences and understanding of campus safety measures.
What was perhaps most interesting about the report was the recommendations by the students to reinforce public safety training and communicate emergency procedures with students, faculty and third-parties. One safety director revealed that although students may understand their school has safety plans in place, they don’t really know what the plans are. It is critical for colleges and universities to implement and communicate emergency response plans, safety policies, evacuation routes, call lists, etc. to all appropriate personnel and students.
Several other recommendations include:
- Educating students on public safety components during orientation
- Making public safety training ongoing (not just annually)
It is critical for administrators to ensure all individuals (faculty, administration, staff, students, parents, first responders, mental health, campus law enforcement, etc.) understand and have acknowledged their individual roles and responsibilities. Many colleges have emergency plans tucked away in binders on dusty shelves or posted to an intranet site, but how can administrators ensure these plans have been read, understood, or updated as risks, threats, regulations, etc. change? Colleges must utilize effective tools for sharing, communicating, implementing and updating plans, policies and procedures on an ongoing basis. Once-a-year general training is not enough and students agree.
The study also suggests students are in favor of campus counseling staff sharing concerns about specific students with campus public safety personnel, and indicated that students believe both they and faculty have “a responsibility to report dangerous students.”
Schools must provide students and faculty with the tools needed to report suspicious incidents, threats, bullying harassment, violence, etc. so red flags do not continue to fall through the gaps. By documenting incidents across all campus departments (HR, IT, Mental Health, Campus Safety, etc.) campus administrators can connect the dots and take actions to prevent violent, expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents from occurring.
As students are voicing their concerns…how is your campus planning to respond?
“Perceptions of Campus Safety Initiatives: Assessing Views of Critical Incident Prevention and Response” is available online at: http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/index.cfm?metaSection=Publications&metapage=campuscrimehome