By providing a campus police department that is adequately staffed, appropriately trained and equipped to respond in the event of incident, Davidson College hopes to foster an environment that promotes safety for our campus family. Most campuses provide police or security protection, emergency blue lights and controlled access to buildings, either by electronic access systems or keys or some combination. Some colleges even use surveillance cameras and other mechanical safety infrastructure such as safe transportation services. Today, an overwhelming percentage of higher education institutions provide emergency notification systems to alert students about dangerous situations directly to their cellphone, as well as offering an increasing industry of safety apps that students can download themselves. These are all essential elements of a robust safety system.
Here at Davidson, we also provide services and support beyond what many local police can offer. Campus officers become a part of the students’ educational experiences. Seldom do we arrest, but we daily interact with students, faculty, staff and visitors. Officers patiently and gently guide students through many first-time life experiences and assist with information, connecting students with resources and helping these young adults to solve problems. For example, if a student’s vehicle sustains damage, the officer not only files the report, but he or she also guides the student in next steps with insurance, repairs and alternative transportation options.
As we try to put our commitment to campus safety in place, we ask ourselves if police or security personnel are readily available and visible. We also want to be sure that campus police officers politely and professionally remind campus members to report suspicious behavior, call for assistance and provide information that supports the commitment to safety. But, community involvement is also key. Emergency services personnel cannot be everywhere, and it is critical that others are aware of and encouraged to report suspicious or concerning behavior and activity to authorities.
I was recently asked, “How can we help make sure Davidson remains a safe campus?” Right now, that seems like an especially important question, and I have spent a good deal of time pondering the issue.
No doubt, hardscape safety features such as emergency phones, door access systems and digital safety infrastructure are essential elements to a safe environment. But, regardless of security measures and crime prevention activities, the human element is the most critical and effective risk reduction strategy.
As members of the community, we need to ask if we recognize the importance of allowing the safety infrastructure to work as designed. (For example, are doors closed and locked or are they held open for unknown persons or propped open for the sake of convenience?) Do we report suspicious behavior? Do other members of the community support a student, faculty or staff member who takes the initiative to report a safety concern?
We must watch out for one another and take the initiative to be more than just casual bystanders. We need to be dedicated to reducing risk, responding effectively to safety issues and minimizing harm. Such a commitment to safety requires all to work effectively together to report, respond, and resolve to take appropriate action before, during and after incidents. Campus safety is a shared responsibility, and building partnerships with students, faculty, staff and community partners is a force multiplier.
I hope you will always feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your time … and be safe wherever you find yourself today!