The issue of safety within academic institutions has become one of increasing concern, particularly for female students. Recent incidences indicate that learning environments, places that are like second homes to students are turning into crime scenes for far too many incidences involving physical and sexual assaults and harassment. While the occurrences and reporting of such cases have been consistent, the number and their frequency has gone up steadfastly in the last few years. Safe learning environments are essential for psychological well-being, as well as the feeling of freedom, dignity and respect for students.
We wanted to understand how this made students feel at their local universities, so we conducted a survey with 40 undergraduate women at Simon Fraser University. The questions were related to how safe they felt on campus and in transit to and from campus. Our findings suggest that such incidences can make students feel quite unsafe, stressed out and can even make it difficult for them to concentrate and focus on schoolwork. As a result, such incidences lead some students to avoid classes on campus during times of the year when there is less sunlight, such as in Autumn and Winter/Spring semesters, and evening classes. It also makes it difficult for students to take transit, or park without constantly feeling worried.
While academic institutions provide some ideas such as walking in groups, or staying in well-lit areas, these precautions are not always possible and are simply not enough. We utmost urgently need academic institutions to do more to promote student safety. The actions we propose include increased surveillance on campuses that means more stations for security guards so that they are never more than a minute away, as well as more cameras in hidden areas, creating on-campus distress centres for students, free self-defence training for students, or making all campus buildings accessible only by student cards. For transit, we propose increasing awareness of apps/alarms for reporting incidents, greater presence of transit officers, an increase in public education campaigns for transit safety, and free emergency whistles distributed to female passengers.
Other key prevention measures include:
Providing photos or sketches of perpetrators on campus and for transit, to be able to identify them quickly
An emergency line for campus security (short like 911; currently full phone numbers are common) or app-button to call instantly if in trouble; alternatively requiring incoming students to add security services on speed dial
Holding intercultural discussions to reduce the practice of hiding incidents that involve harassment or violence, and so the occurrences are not considered ‘too taboo’ to report to authorities
Character development courses for males and females K-12, focusing on moral values, healthy sense of self-esteem and self-respect
Research body to conduct analysis of campus safety incidents across years as well as best solutions across campuses
Cassbreea Dewis, Executive Director of the Equity and Human Rights Office at UVic has said 'there is a need for universities to have some consistency... to ensure that we all have some shared approaches is really key." This requires a resolution for consistency in policies and support systems across campuses. (The Abbotsford News, 17 May, 2018)
Offering more online courses for students trauma who prefer not to attend anymore
Date: July 26, 2019 Updated: March 14, 2021