By Hannah Bleau | firstname.lastname@example.org
As more students enroll in college than ever before, colleges are beginning to reevaluate safety concerns. Incidents like date rape, theft and aggravated assault aren’t foreign to college campuses, and in come cases, the crime is more severe.
In 2007, student gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 and wounded 17 at Virginia Tech. The following year, Steven Kazmierczak opened fire at Northern Illinois University, killing five and wounding 21. Similar tragedies have occurred around the U.S in recent years.
Colleges are forced to question if criminal activity be accepted as part of the natural mix and if colleges are simply generating more victims by relying on out-dated security policies.
In lieu of a means of protection on college campuses, some officials – and lawmakers – have advocated rape whistles and call boxes to combat violence.
“That’s why we have call boxes, that’s why we have safe zones, that’s why we have whistles, because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at,” Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar said last year.
Examining college weapon policies may give insight as to how criminals create their own violent playground with such ease. Keeping these campus tragedies in mind, it may be time for postsecondary institutions, like Flagler College, to reexamine their current weapon policies.
Campus crime data reports are only reliable to a certain extent. Controversy surrounds the Clery Act, which requires postsecondary institutions to report crimes in order to receive public funding.
To appear safer, campuses report little as possible. Because of that, one can assume the numbers are inflated. In addition, some of the statistics are iffy, because some colleges report incidents on campus, and not “nearby.”
But what constitutes “nearby?” That question is essentially what puts Flagler College in a tough position. As a campus that’s rooted in downtown St. Augustine, intertwining with public streets, how safe could the campus be, and is it prepared for a severe threat?
Director of Campus Safety and Security Kerry Davis says it’s a legitimate concern.
“We wouldn’t be the school we are without tourists and without visitors, but at the same time, people that aren’t tourists or visitors still walk through. My biggest concern is really those that don’t belong showing up,” Davis said.
Flagler’s current weapon policy prohibits any means of protection on campus whether it’s a pocketknife, taser or concealed firearm. Because of the restrictions, one would assume the security department would have a legitimate means of protection.
“Security doesn’t carry anything except a radio and a set of keys,“ Kerry said.
Kerry says he agrees with Flagler’s restrictive weapon policy, and contends that many threats are offset because the St. Augustine Police Department is only three blocks away, but in an event of an immediate emergency, the security team is supposed to be the first line of defense.
This brings up additional concerns about campus safety, and the worries aren’t unwarranted.
Students seem iffy on allowing concealed weapons on campus, but generally speaking, students believe security should have some form of defense– besides a sharp key, that is.
“On one hand, I do think it would be safe if only security had it,” said Flagler senior Angelica Humphry.
Humphry, who lives at FEC on Malaga Street, is also concerned about walking from her dorm to campus.
“I have to walk back and forth at night and I do feel a little uncomfortable. It’s not lit well and I don’t feel safe all the time,” Humphry said. “Even though that is a part of Flagler College, I don’t feel necessarily safe going to and from.”
Flagler’s unique set-up may warrant a revamp in the security department, but Director of Institutional Research Will Miller says surveys show students are happy with the safety at Flagler.
“Every couple of years, we go though and we give what’s called the student satisfaction inventory which basically asks students to go through and rate campus on a variety of different factors,” Miller said.
This includes safety and security.
“On ‘the campus is safe and secure for all students,’ we are in very good shape. On a 7-point scale, students rate that as a 6.23, which is really good for us,” Miller said.
Despite the encouraging poll results, Miller says there’s still reason to exercise caution.
“It’s a weird dynamic here,” Miller said. “It feels like a safe campus. But we said that about Northern Illinois. We said that about Virginia Tech. We said that about everywhere else.”