When anyone begins searching for a college or university that best meets their needs, they often pay particular attention to the graduation rates, price, location, and advanced degrees held by professors.
However, recently there has been another important criterion prospective college students are moving to the top of lists: campus safety.
The following colleges and universities are expanding the ways institutions of higher learning approach campus safety and as a result, students on these campuses have a myriad of resources to help ensure they are not only in a stimulating learning environment, but also a secure environment.
Kent State University
Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, has long been recognized as leader in safe campus strategies and the Consortium for Higher Education Campus Crime Research conducted a nationwide study that ranked Kent State in the lowest 2 percent of crime for universities of its size. The university can attribute part of its success regarding safety to its award-winning campus police. The Kent State University Police Services was the first university police department to be named a Flagship Department by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
In addition to the on-campus police department, Kent State also has many programs in place to keep students safe and informed about potential risks on campus. Kent State has a Flash Alert system that sends text messages to students alerting them of any critical news and information any time of day. While we all know it isn’t safe to walk alone at night, there are times when students must leave the security of their rooms and are unable to find someone to accompany them. To combat this reality head-on, Kent State devised a Residence Services Security Aids who are available from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. to walk students to an on-campus destination. These student security aids, clad in yellow jackets with “SECURITY” written on the back, work with the campus police and are in constant contact with the police via two-way radios. It is also mandatory for security aids to escort all visitors on campus.
Recognizing the best way to tackle crime and safety is through prevention, the university has many programs in place to educate students about crime and how to avoid being a victim. Each year the university has 30 sessions of Alert, Lockdown, Information, Counter, and Evacuate available to students, faculty, and staff to inform them about the procedures if a gunman is on campus. The office of Health Promotion has programs geared at making students aware of the harms and dangers associated with drinking and drug use. The university is aware that sexual assault is one of the biggest threats on campus and each year holds entertaining programs to educate the student body on the subject. In addition, Kent State also has Women’s Center that offers counseling and support for women who are victims of sex crimes.
Virginia Western Community College
Like most colleges and universities, Virginia Western Community College was influenced to take a long, hard look at its campus safety practices after the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. According to StateUniversity.com the college is now ranked as the safest in Virginia and eighth safest in the nation.
To increase campus safety, Virginia Western began by installing flat screen televisions throughout campus that serve as an emergency alter system. The WVTV system will switch to emergency notification mode which provides instructions in an emergency. In addition to the WVTV system, the college also sends alert notifications via a texting system, through email and an on-campus siren is sounded in the event of an emergency.
The college has installed blue lockdown pull stations for students, faculty and staff to use to alert the college if an eminent threat is believed to be on campus.
In addition to being prepared for an intruder, Virginia Western also has an extensive fire, tornado and severe weather reaction program in place. Each classroom has an emergency preparedness plan with directions on what to do in case of a weather-related emergency.
Kansas State University
At Kansas State University, they understand that crime witnesses often don’t come forward because of fear of retaliation or apprehension about becoming involved. To combat this problem, The Kansas State University Police Department created a Silent Witness program so anyone who witnesses a crime can anonymously report it online through an encrypted server. The university is serious about keeping all of its co-eds safe and offers student and staff unlimited access to the Wildcat Walk. The Wildcat Walk is a police escorts available 24-hours a day throughout campus and up to two blocks away from campus. Students who wish to use the service can either call directly or use one of the many blue light emergency buttons located throughout the campus.
In addition the Wildcat Walk and Silent Witness program, the university also has video surveillance, emergency call boxes, and residence hall employees who are trained in crisis assistance. To gain access to the locked residence halls, one must have a valid student ID and security swipe card. If there is an emergency situation on campus, students are notified via text message, email, or telephone messages.
As part of its crime prevention campaign, Kansas State University provides seminars conducted by members of its police department to any organization that wishes to learn more about crime prevention or drug awareness.
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest College is tucked away in a picturesque Chicago suburb, but college officials don’t feel it is immune to acts of crime or nature that could compromise its students and staff. While the college has its own on-campus security, it maintains a great working relationship with the nearby Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Fire Department.
The college’s public safety department is on 24-hour foot and vehicle patrol around the campus and also works in conjunction with student patrol to ensure the campus is safe night and day. If a student is alone on campus and feels threatened or otherwise uncomfortable, public safety offers on-campus escorts throughout the well-lighted pathways and sidewalks.
Lake Forest College has numerous 24-hour emergency telephones throughout campus allowing students and staff immediate security response. The college keeps the doors to residence halls locked and only students with security cards are able to gain access.
While colleges and universities are diligent in making their campuses as safe and secure as possible, it is still important to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings. To do your part on campus, never walk alone at night, always let someone know where you are going, keep doors locked, report suspicious behavior, know the school’s evacuation plans, and follow the rules regarding cooking in dorm rooms.
Written by Nicole Tallman
Nicole is the mom to two precocious girls and is PTA President. She is passionate about the environment and leaving the Earth better than she found it. Learn more