Editorial: Reducing Fear and Feelings of Vulnerability on Campus
We can do better than an empty room.
Photo by Jacob Reiskin '17.
The recent sexual misconduct reports on campus have left students and administrators eager to find a solution to Skidmore’s safety concerns. To help ease these concerns, Campus Safety has reported that they will be adding two more officers to patrol campus during peak weekend hours. In addition, an SGA Working group has been formed to tackle sex and gender based misconduct on campus. The student body has gotten involved too; a group of students put together a Facebook group called ‘Walk With You’. This group allows people on campus to reach out to others and find a buddy to walk with if they feel unsafe and don’t want to walk alone at night. The group grew rapidly to nearly 700 members within a week of its creation. All of these actions by administrators and students demonstrate how vulnerable many students at Skidmore feel right now.
The Editorial Board suggests that Campus Safety come up with more creative ideas to dissipate this sense of vulnerability and decrease incidents of Sex and Gender Based Misconduct. Adding more officers and increasing weekend nighttime presence is an important step towards a safer campus. However, it’s highly unlikely that a campus safety officer will be in the right place at the right time in order to prevent an assault from happening. Sure, the knowledge that there will be more officers present might dissuade one student from trying to assault another, but since incidents of this nature typically happen behind closed doors, it’s unlikely that the increased presence of officers will make a difference.
The Board discussed the idea of adding more emergency blue lights, but there are already eighteen, and there is always one within sight no matter where a person is standing on campus. Our research has shown that some schools have started adopting the BlueLight app. With just the press of a button, students can alert Campus Safety of their precise location and let them know they’re in distress. This is great for situations in which taking a phone out to make a phone call could potentially put a vulnerable student in more danger, as well as when a physical blue light is inaccessible. This would be an easy solution for Skidmore to institute, and it would ensure that immediate help is always accessible.
The app also has a feature called “On My Way,” where you can select a contact, let them know where you are and what your destination is, and they can then watch you travel your route in real-time. They are alerted both when you are near and have reached your destination safely. This could be very helpful for students who don’t feel comfortable walking alone on campus. Perhaps they will feel more secure knowing that somebody would be able to get them help if something happens on their way home.
As college-aged students, we are adults on the threshold of complete independence. We don’t want to feel like Campus Safety is constantly babysitting us. But there is a clear need to ensure that students feel safe on their own campus, and we need to reconcile this issue. We must find ways to improve our sense of trust in other students; we must find ways to help all students feel safer, and we must decrease incidents of sexual misconduct. There shouldn’t be a need for Facebook groups like Walk With You.
We, the Board, do not have all the answers. So, we want to know what suggestions you have for how we can make our school a safer place. Let us know any ideas you might have in the comments below. Let’s come together as a community to combat these issues. We hope to write a follow-up piece covering the ideas that we generate together.