Series: Do students feel safe on their campuses?

Meghan Kenney January 25, 2018 0

Elizabethtown College prides itself on the safety of its campus. There are also many available resources, such as blue lights and the LiveSafe app, which are in use around campus. But do students feel safe here? This series will go into detail about safety around campus, beginning with the thoughts and feelings from students, professors and Campus Security employees.

Rebecca Easton, a junior who has been a Jaywalker since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, said Jaywalkers often get questions from parents about security on campus while on tours. “‘Is the campus safe?’ is a question that opens a plethora of doors for people to talk about,” Easton said. “The response is usually something like, ‘campus is usually pretty safe.’ We talk about the community aspect of Etown and we also talk about the blue lights. When we are walking, even if the parents do not ask about safety, we usually talk about it when we get to the blue light right by the Dell.”

Easton also said that she believes that parents are asking these questions because they are “naturally concerned for their children” and that some parents say that they ask about safety at every institution that they visit. As a Jaywalker, Easton tries to provide a “multilayered” answer to security questions in hopes of reassuring nervous parents.

Yet, as first-year and Etownian staff writer Sofia Jurado observed, some Jaywalkers can be “vague” when it comes to questions about security. “A Jaywalker explicitly [told Jurado’s tour group in 2016 during her tour of campus] that nothing extreme had happened on campus for the last few years,” Jurado said. “She expressed how safe the campus was and really stressed how safe she feels even walking home at night. But, she never explained what she meant by ‘extreme,’ meaning she never explicitly said anything about no rapes, no assaults, no alcohol, etc.”

Etown’s Jaywalkers are instructed to explain the LiveSafe app on tours of the campus. LiveSafe was designed to be an easy and direct connection to Campus Security and other students on campus. With features that allow students to report tips, chat with Campus Security, make emergency phone calls and participate in virtual escorts and safety check-ins, LiveSafe is an easy access point for students.

Students are encouraged to get the app from their first day at Etown during orientation, where it is described in great detail and its use is encouraged many different times.

But what about when students cannot access their phones? Campus Security Director Andrew Powell said that Campus Security Officers and Student Patrol Officers are constantly roaming the campus on foot and in vehicles in hopes of always being available and accessible.

The other option for students around campus is the blue light system. There are 40 blue lights around campus, typically seen as a blue light above a yellow call box on lamp posts. When a student presses the button on the call box, it rings, similar to a normal telephone, and calls the Campus Security Office, where there is always somebody on call. That on-call employee then sends an officer to the box that was activated, whether it be an accident or not, to check out the situation.

Powell also said that LiveSafe is a valuable addition to the campus. He said that Etown has a relatively safe campus and that the diligence of Campus Security Officers on-call and on-patrol heavily contributes to how safe the campus is.

When it comes to colleges overall, the crime rate among campuses has gone down in recent years, but institutions are still looking to lower the numbers. In 2015, the Campus Safety and Security section of the U.S. Department of Education reported a total of 36,248 criminal offenses throughout 11,306 campuses. In that year, Etown had only 15 reported criminal offenses.

When comparing Etown (reported enrollment 1,820) to other Pennsylvania schools—Messiah College (3,302), Pennsylvania State University Main Campus (47,307) and Millersville University (7,959)—the numbers tell another story.

In 2015, Etown had nine reports of rape, Messiah had two, Penn State had 51 and Millersville had three. In both raw numbers and ratios to total enrollment, Etown’s numbers were significant. Yet, when it came to disciplinary actions, Etown had a total of 151 law violations while Messiah had 24, Penn State had 1,236 and Millersville had 171, putting Etown with a high ratio of law violations to total students.

One other statistic from the U.S. Department of Education is the number of stalking offenses—Etown had six, Messiah had none, Penn State had 20 and Millersville had three.

This three-part series will examine the levels of safety on Etown’s campus, along with other colleges in the area. This first article will specifically focus on the topic of general safety and well-being from students, professors and Campus Security officers. The second article in this series will feature Etown’s Blue Light safety system and its current functionality on campus. The final article in this series will speculate the future of safety and security on college campuses.

While six is a relatively low number, it is still a higher ratio to enrollment compared to the other colleges.

After hearing these statistics, Easton’s reaction was mixed. “One thing to keep in mind is that a school can’t completely eliminate crime,” Easton said. “People are always trying to get around getting in trouble for crimes. There are many television shows that talk about partying and different crimes across college campuses. I really can’t think of a way to completely eliminate things like rape from a campus. There are only so many times that you can say ‘don’t rape.’ It is important to be as clear as possible to when these things happen to follow through and assist the victim in any way and punish the perpetrator.”

Jurado was disturbed by these facts and stated that she feels “… campus security and the admissions program should not be saying that everything is so safe at Etown when these ratios exist, making it seem like a large public school has a lower ratio or reported rapes on campus in one year to this small private school.”

“It is important to not just tell people not to commit these atrocities, but to say that if you need help, we can provide it and then follow through if help is needed,” Easton said.

To avoid being a victim at Etown, Powell wants students to remember that Campus Security is always available to help students in need. “Never be afraid to report suspicious activity or to call Campus Security, hit a blue light or use LiveSafe in unsafe or potentially unsafe situations,” Powell said.

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