Campus Safety Addressed
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Concerns about the physical and financial safety of university students and employees have skyrocketed in recent years and with good reason, the head of the nation’s higher-education police chiefs said Jan. 26 at East Carolina University.
Steven Healy, chief of police at Princeton University and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said headline-generating murders and assaults and computer crimes that affect thousands of students have moved safety to the top of the agenda on many campuses.
“We have to grow; new skills are required of our first responders, and new skills are required of our leaders,” Healy said. “We need to work together to build partnerships with our communities to keep our campuses, and our students, safe,”
Healy was the keynote speaker at a higher education safety symposium sponsored by ECU’s Division of Student Life. As many as 200 administrators and student life staff from across the UNC system and community colleges attended the day-long event.
Marilyn Sheerer, vice chancellor for student life at ECU, said every campus is challenged by threats to its safety. “Of all the items on our university agenda, the safety of our campus, and our off-campus community, is a tough one,” Sheerer said. “It affects and engages everyone. Given the recent occurrences on other campuses, we must ask ourselves if we are prepared and doing everything possible to prevent such occurrences.”
The event included presentations about laws pertaining to students and disclosure of criminal records; violence and interpersonal crime; campus law enforcement; and university safety plans.
Kemal Atkins, director for academic and student affairs in the UNC system, said in 2004, a taskforce charged with addressing campus safety issues identified two key areas of concern: the student admissions process and the campus environment.
“How can we make a safe campus environment while keeping a public university still open to the public? How can we take care of our faculty, staff and students, and those coming from the outside?” Atkins said.
Peter Romary, director of Student Legal Services at ECU, said faculty and staff should be trained to help students who come forward with information.
“If someone is a victim of violence or sexual assault, the person they tell will be a friend, an RA, or a faculty advisor; someone they know and trust,” Romary said.
“Let’s train those people to escort students to the police, to victim’s advocates. Let’s train people to change how we think about these problems.”
Workshops about Student Neighborhood relations, strategies to prevent alcohol and substance abuse, and risk management and safety planning were also held.
ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard stressed the importance of partnerships among campus and community leaders, as well as students, in developing safety policies and procedures.
“It is a new world today, in how we think of the safety of our campus, how we treat students, and how we work with our community to do everything we can to ensure that safety,” Ballard said.