Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Safe and Sound? Recent Issues with Hazing, Bullying and Sexual Assault Have Motivated Colleges to Increase Efforts to Provide a Secure Environment for Students

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Safe and Sound? Recent Issues with Hazing, Bullying and Sexual Assault Have Motivated Colleges to Increase Efforts to Provide a Secure Environment for Students

Article excerpt

At Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution set on 200 acres on Connecticut's coastline, new students get an early start on learning about consensual sex, being an active bystander, and sexual assault and prevention.

Over the summer, incoming students take a mandatory online education program that addresses subjects such as sexual assault and stalking. They learn techniques to empower themselves, particularly in vulnerable situations. When they arrive on campus in the days before fall classes begin, they are broken up by gender and meet in groups where they have frank discussions about consent. They are taught tools about giving affirmative consent during relationships with partners, according to Karen Dono-ghue, associate vice president and dean of students at Fairfield.

"The first six weeks are considered the red zone [when] it comes to sexual assault," she says.

Donoghue says that the university also trains all students in being "active bystanders," who watch out for sexual assault, violence, harassment and stalking.

"Then we are also giving them techniques like watching out for your friend. If you see someone in trouble, call and get them help," she says. "We are giving them tools to speak up if someone is using derogatory and harassing language to stop them from using those terms or hitting on someone who is incapacitated. We want to create a culture in which someone steps in if another person is being taken advantage of."

National crisis

In the wake of heightened national attention to issues such as hazing, bullying and sexual assaults, the nations colleges and universities are increasingly refining and updating their techniques for keeping their students safe. The techniques range from the routine--partnering with local law enforcement or setting up multidisciplinary teams of faculty and staff to investigate reported violations--to offering opportunities for self-defense training tactics, providing escort services on campus, and using technology to promote confidentiality and further enhance the safety of students. At Fairfield, the university has worked diligently to expand its education and outreach to men.

"We've been very lacking as a society as a whole in educating men," says Todd Pelazza, director of public safety at Fairfield. "We also have an all-male high school on our campus. This was the first year we did the program for the school. Each of them pledged to be part of the white ribbon campaign. Every two years we conduct a climate survey. Overwhelmingly students feel very safe. We do a lot of mentoring on campus. One of our programs is called Man 2 Man. It's done in residence halls and facilitated by RAs."

Florida A&M University (FAMU), which was under fire a few years ago for an incident in which a member of the school's marching band was killed during hazing, has installed dozens of cameras on the campus. The university has 329 security cameras placed in strategic locations throughout the campus.

The college also has multiple emergency blue light systems housed on the campus. The systems are monitored by FAMU's Department of Campus Safety & Security to facilitate reporting emergencies. When activated, the interactive emergency system automatically relays the geographical location of the caller to the Police Communications Center.

"Student safety is a key aspect of our orientation programs and is embedded in our daily student life programs throughout the academic year," Dr. William Hudson Jr., vice president for student affairs at FAMU, said in a prepared statement.

FAMU officials say that they regularly provide students with crime prevention tips and tools, including programs such as self-defense tactics and other forms of defense training.

Technology tools utilized by FAMU include text messaging, email and a web-based, realtime system that alerts students, faculty and staff about crime or other emergencies on or near the campus. …

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