Why is Campus Safety Important?

Why is Campus Safety so Important?

How important is campus safety? Consider the 2020 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report, 28,900 crimes were recorded at the college level in 2017. The figure is a two percent increase over the crimes reported in 2016. Such dire figures force us to reconsider the value we put on campus safety. After all, college campuses revolve around student life.

With this in mind, the government has put in place several laws and regulations to address campus safety. Moreover, compliance with these laws has been tied to federal grants such as Title IV funding. Colleges need to comply with these rules and regulations for receiving federal funds.

Campus safety laws and regulations

To mention the three most important campus safety laws and regulations–

  1. The Title IX requires colleges to address discrimination in education programs and activities. Colleges also need to put in place a robust system for addressing complaints of sexual harassment.
  2. The Clery Act requires colleges to disclose the annual statistics of campus crime and fire. Colleges also need to put in place policies and procedures for campus safety. This includes procedures for sending crime warnings and emergency notifications.
  3. The Violence against women Act requires colleges to address the problem of sexual assault. In addition, colleges need to conduct training for addressing the problem.

Non-compliance with any of these laws can trigger an official investigation. Consequences include withholding of grants, monetary penalties, and loss of reputation. Besides this, it can deter parents and prospective students from selecting your college.

Above all, without strong campus safety, it would be difficult to address the issues of campus crime, discrimination and sexual harassment. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at these issues, and pin point how campus security helps to address them.

In addition, we’ll explore the role of the college staff and faculty in campus safety. We’ll also take a closer look at campus security authorities, and why they are so important.

Why is Campus Safety so Important?

Before we begin, it’s important to point out the AAU Campus Climate survey conducted by the Association of American Universities. The 2019 survey found significant sexual misconduct on college campuses. Similarly, the 2020 Indicators of School Crime and Safety report points out that 38% and 36% of recorded crimes were burglaries and forcible sex offenses, respectively.

Considering the above figures, colleges need to put in place a strong campus security program. Without it, colleges may not be able to attract prospective students to their campuses. But, what constitutes such a safety program?

As the first step, colleges should review the policies and procedures put in place for campus safety. Secondly, and most importantly, they need to have support resources for students dealing with mental health issues.

Thirdly, the administration should look into their sexual assault prevention program. The program should take into account all forms of sexual assault. And lastly, the institution should have a strong policy against alcohol and drug abuse by students.

Campus Safety training

And ultimately, the college must put in place a robust campus safety training program. The training should, specifically, concentrate upon

  • Sexual assault awareness and prevention
  • Title IX and Clery Act awareness
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Mental health
  • Active shooter preparedness

Actually, the federal laws mandate most of the issues listed above. For instance, compliance with the Violence Against Women Act requires colleges to have education programs on all forms of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

Campus safety policies and procedures

Regarding policies and procedures, you’d want to look at the new Clery Act Appendix for the Federal Student Aid handbook. In addition to crime and fire statistics, it suggests that colleges should publish following policies and procedures in their Annual Security Report for the benefit of prospective students.

  • Alcohol consumption and illegal drug usage
  • Handling complaints of sexual assault
  • Emergency response and evacuation
  • Missing student notifications
  • Reporting criminal actions and other emergencies
  • Security of and access to campus facilities
  • Law enforcement authority and jurisdiction of security personal

Additionally, you should have policies that encourage prompt and accurate reporting of campus crimes as well. But, be cautious, the Clery Act appendix is not descriptive, but suggestive in nature.

On the subject of the role of college staff and faculty in campus security, federal laws have various requirements. Previously, under Title IX, faculty and staff were considered as responsible employees. They were required by law to address the acts of harassment reported to them. The new Title IX rules, published in May 2020, have removed this term. Now, only a Title IX coordinator can investigate complaints of harassment.

Campus security authorities

A similar change has happened to the definition of campus security authorities this year. The new guidance clarifies that colleges don’t need to consider faculty and staff with minimum student or campus responsibilities as CSAs. Unless the person falls in one of the following three categories, the colleges can decide which staff or faculty should be declared as a CSA.

  1. Members of campus police or safety department
  2. People who have responsibility for campus security, but are not a part of campus police or safety department
  3. Individuals specified in the security policy as people to whom students and employees can report crime.

To clarify, Campus Security Authorities are the members of staff and faculty to whom people can report crimes. CSAs have the duty of sharing the report with the campus safety office. These reports are, then, investigated by the campus police and filed in a crime log. Colleges use these crime-logs to compile and publish the statistics of campus crime. The crime statistics must also be reported to the Department of Education via the Annual safety and security survey.

In addition, crime reports by CSAs allow the campus police to

  • Issue timely and accurate crime warnings and emergency notifications
  • Respond to emergencies and ongoing crimes
  • Understand the nature of campus crime

In conclusion

In a nutshell, campus safety depends a lot on crimes reports shared by the campus security authority. Due to this reason, the training of your CSAs should be taken very seriously. To illustrate, keeping the identity of the complainant is an important aspect of a CSA’s job; and yet in certain cases, a CSA cannot keep it secret. Similarly, prompt and accurate reporting by a CSA can be crucial in handling emergencies, such as an active shooter over the campus. Such tasks cannot be accomplished without proper training.

To put it all briefly, you need to put in place strong safety measures for the safety of your campus. Weak measures can put your students at serious risk of harm. In addition, you may be in non-compliance with the state and federal laws; which could lead to the withholding of federal grants and severe monetary penalties.

Does campus safety concern you? How crucial do you believe campus safety training is? Please share your views on campus safety in the comments below.

Jessica Holland

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