6 Back-to-School Campus Safety Rules
The start of another school year means many things – new classes, different professors, and fresh opportunities to pursue your career goals. But before you rush into the fray of back-to-back study sessions and caffeine-charged all-nighters, take some time to consider everything else that comes with college life.
The fact is that crime, sexual assault, and other forms of violence remain prevalent no matter which college you choose to attend. This fall, do your part to remember a few tips to help keep yourself and others safer on campus this year.
#1 – Communicate Carefully
In our fast-paced digital world, over-sharing is the norm. But certain details should be kept as private as possible. For instance, don’t post anything to social media you feel unsure about. Make it harder for potential stalkers and criminals to find you – disable location services on your phone, and avoid broadcasting when you’ve left your dorm vacant for the night. Never broadcast your personal information anywhere for the public eye to see.
But while you should keep your whereabouts off limits to would-be criminals, some information is worth sharing with the right people. Your roommates, for example, should have an idea of when you’re coming and going so they know when to expect you back. Exchange phone numbers with a few people in your dorm, and save the campus police’s emergency phone number to use in a crisis.
#2 – Travel in Packs
Groups of people are harder to target than individuals. When you’re walking to class or heading home for the day, stick with a crowd that’s going the same way. The buddy system might feel like a technique reserved for elementary school field trips, but it’s an effective deterrent for casual criminals. If you can’t find a group to walk with, don’t be afraid to call a campus safety officer for a lift home, especially if you have night classes that let out after dark. Also, remember to park your car in well-lit, high-traffic areas whenever possible.
#3 – Get to Know the Place
Criminals look for easy targets, which includes people walking alone and those who seem lost. To avoid being pegged as a newbie, get to know the campus and its surrounding areas well ahead of time. Map out well-trafficked paths to your classes, and avoid taking shortcuts that lead through places that would be hard to escape, such as alleyways. If you’re not good with directions, ask your friends or roommate for tips on getting around safely.
You can also stop in at your on-campus police station for advice and information. You’ll be able to ask more detailed questions about the resources available to you as a student. Some departments, for example, offer lifts between classes, safety call boxes or self-defense classes. While you’re there, get the numbers for the emergency line, the local off-campus police station and any other relevant numbers that you might need in a crisis.
#4 – Tighten Your Defense
Taking a self-defense course could take your personal security – and awareness – to the next level. Typically taught by safety experts or local police officers, self-defense classes will teach you how to pay attention to your surroundings, the moves to use during an attack and what to do when you’re caught unawares, among other things. While you’re boosting your self-defense skills, think of obtaining a non-lethal weapon, such as an attack whistle or pepper spray.
#5 – Upgrade Your Tech
Chances are, you own a smartphone. Put that device to good use by installing personal safety apps that can warn you about natural disasters or send a GPS alert if you’re in danger. Most current home security devices (such as surveillance cameras or alarms) connect to an app so you can keep an eye on any of your belongings, or even your little ones, on view remotely at all times. Constant connected vigilance means less stress for you, and staying plugged in to an alert system may help you to avoid or thwart danger.
#6 – Be More Than a Bystander
Life as a student can be complex enough without worrying about your safety. Remember, being a “bystander” doesn’t mean you should just stand by if you witness any incidences that may lead to violence. A safer campus community starts with everyone making the choice to keep themselves – and their classmates – out of harm’s way. Talk to your school’s emergency department or campus police for detailed information about specific safety protocols, and take proactive steps to protect yourself in case of personal attacks, outside threats or natural disasters. The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture offers a bevy of resources if you need help, including a listing of appropriate organizations that aid in education, prevention and recovery for victims of sexual assault.
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she continues to live and work.