Increasing Personal Safety on Campus: Implementation of a New Personal Security System on a University Campus

By Zugazaga, Carole; Werner, Danilea et al. | College Student Affairs Journal, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Increasing Personal Safety on Campus: Implementation of a New Personal Security System on a University Campus


Zugazaga, Carole, Werner, Danilea, Clifford, Janice E., Weaver, Greg S., Ware, Angela, College Student Affairs Journal


Numerous incidents of crime occur on and around college and university campuses each year (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). Since the 1980s, there has been increasing concern over campus crime and student safety (Jennings, Gover, & Pudryzynska, 2007). Under the Clery Act, all colleges and universities that receive federal funding under Title IV are required to maintain and disclose information about certain types of crimes committed both on and off campus (Drysdale & Simons, 2010), and about campus safety and security practices (Sells, 2002). The crimes mandated to be reported are categorized as either violent crimes or property crimes. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a letter (referred to as the 'Dear Colleague Letter') that outlined requirements pertaining to sexual harassment of students including sexual violence. The 'Dear Colleague Letter' requires colleges and universities to report all incidents of sexual violence to the appropriate officials (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

In 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education (2014), 30,400 criminal incidents on campus were reported to police and security agencies. Property crimes were the most prevalent (77.2%), yet violent crimes tend to be of greatest concern. Media depictions of crime may distort the context in and the extent to which violence actually occurs on and in the vicinity of college campuses. In particular, these incidents of violent crime may be covered in the media due to the more serious nature of the act, such as the Virginia Tech University "massacre" (Hauser & O'Conner, 2007) in 2007. To a lesser extent crimes of sexual violence have been publicized in the media like recent allegations at Vanderbilt University (Blinder & Pérez-Peña, 2015). However, media reports of campus crime statistics show an increase in reporting of sexual assault (Associated Press, 2015). Media representations of sexual assault on campus in movies such as The Hunting Ground released in 2015 have brought attention to the necessity for individualized and campus-wide safety initiatives (Barnes, 2015).

Purpose of the Research

Parents of students have demanded more inclusion in policy considerations related to campus security (Janosik, 2002; Sells, 2002). Administrators have responded by giving greater attention to the need for additional security measures on and around campuses. Crime prevention measures often include a variety of programs or services such as Rape Aggression Defense classes (Merchant, 2014), improved outdoor lighting, limited access to facilities/ buildings at night and on weekends, student escort services, etc. (Garcia, Lechner, Frerich, Lust, & Eisenberg, 2012). Many institutions of higher education have implemented Emergency Management programs, which are responsible for responding to emergency situations, planning and hazard mitigation (Sullivan & Perry, 2014). Some programs use emergency notification systems to communicate emergency information about incidents such as shootings, assaults, alleged sexual assaults and other critical situations to the campus community (Lulay, 2015; Merchant, 2014).

The role of the student, parents, and Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) during emergencies, both individual and large scale, is constantly evolving. SSAOs are often involved in all levels of crisis (Sandeen & Barr, 2007). The increased involvement of parents in all aspects of the college student's life has been well documented in the student affairs literature. Parents expect to have contact with SSAOs and to participate in resolving issues for their student (Somers & Settle, 2010). The continued involvement of parents, along with the expected role of SSAOs in emergencies, leads one to question the role of the student, parent, and university in ensuring personal safety - especially as personal safety is increasingly covered in the media and as safety technology advances. Therefore, the purpose of the study presented here is to assess a mobile personal security system to determine if and how students and parents believe the system affects personal safety and security on university and college campuses. …

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