Students’ Responsibility to Safety
Published: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 14, 2011 05:04
Once crime dips on the Hilltop, incidents like the recent unlawful entries in LXR Hall remind us that on-campus misdemeanors are the shared responsibility of the Department of Public Safety, university policy and perhaps most importantly, the students they serve.
The exact nature of the intrusions on Saturday is unclear; the suspects might have been students, LXR residents or complete strangers to the university. In one scenario, the perpetrator may have taken advantage of an opportunity presented by an unlocked door, or on the other hand he may have broken and entered in a more threatening way. Regardless, these two incidents are alarming for the Georgetown community.
In the past, students have blamed the DPS and on-campus security infrastructure for crimes perpetrated against students. We applaud the university's plan for the installation of security cameras at the entrance of residential dorms released on March 30th. But by setting up more cameras, installing video intercom systems in apartments (like those in Village B), placing automatic locking doors in older dormitories (namely LXR, Darnall, Village C and Village A) and ramping up the number of blue-light call boxes, safety can only be improved — and tracking down suspects could become a whole lot easier.
Beyond technology initiatives, university administrators should reconsider a policy that does a disservice to victims of assault on campus. Currently, a student victim cannot publicize the name of his or her assailant. At the very least, victims should be allowed to share the name of the perpetrator if they want to protect their friends and peers from similar harm. As recently as 2003, the victim was barred from even knowing the punishment of her offender. The university needs to help cultivate positive changes in campus culture rather than enshroud perpetrators' identities to those they have affected most. In short, this standard operating procedure may lead to even more crimes on campus.
But battling on-campus crime requires student action too. The first responsibility of students comes in mindset. No matter what, we can't forget that we live in an area susceptible to theft and sexual assault, even when we're in the comfort of our residence halls. Beyond securing laptops and other valuables, taking initiative means avoiding dark alleyways at night and remembering to lock doors at all times.
Student action isn't limited solely to safety measures, however. Simply put, college students can fall victim to an attitude problem when it comes to campus crime. It's easy to dip into a lull of security that causes residents to let their guard down. And even if crimes are reported promptly via Public Safety Alerts, many students read these emails hastily if at all. "This couldn't happen to me" is a mantra that may run through many students' minds. But to make student safety a top priority on campus, treating crime prevention as a shared responsibility is a necessary step. And yes, trivializing safety concerns by invoking the "Georgetown Cuddler" nickname only perpetuates a culture of perceived immunity.
Students ought to hold administrators and the DPS to high standards. In many areas, the university is still on its way to meeting these. But for the sake of a comfortable and safe on-campus culture, students must own their share of responsibility for maintaining a guarded environment.
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