How Secure are College Campuses in 2020?

It’s back-to-school season, and even during the uncertainty of COVID-19, students across the United States are carrying out that age-old tradition of packing their belongings and dorm furniture and getting ready for that college move. It also starts the perennial parental and student concern: How safe and secure are college campuses?

Campuses are always hotbeds of security and safety threats. For instance, in 2018, there were 1,908 reported hate crimes at colleges nationally — based on data from 11,013 campuses — according to the U.S. Department of Education. They also report there were 44,567 arrests of all kinds on campuses that same year.

College sexual assault is a major safety concern. RAINN reports that 11.2 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault. This breaks down to 8.8 percent of female and 2.2 percent of male graduate students, respectively, and 23.1 percent of female and 5.4 percent of male undergraduate students, respectively. About 4.2 percent of students have reported stalking.

Now, on top of all of this, COVID-19 has added another serious college safety concern. Colleges across the country are witnessing a spike in cases since classes have resumed.

With all of these serious safety concerns, how can parents, students and staff on campuses feel secure?

The Princeton Review provides an overview of various campus safety concerns — from personal safety to mental health — and offers common resources and questions you should ask as you (or a student you know) head back to school.

The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture provides useful resources on protocols and training to make campuses safer, including links to research like this one on the current state of addressing sexual violence in higher education.

For school administrators and leaders, the Department of Education provides a campus safety handbook, including guidance on everything from releasing public safety communications to campus communities, to what to do to search for a missing student, to protocols for safe dormitory housing.

When it comes to the reality of COVID-19, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides its own tools and guidelines for schools. This means cleaning and disinfecting guidelines as well as suggestions for preventing the spread of the virus, such as adhering to protective masks and social distancing and quarantine protocols.

Clearly, now more than ever, safety and security on college campuses is a complex but crucial issue. Students and parents should consult campuses’ specific protocols as well upon arriving at a college and university at the start of the school year.

Published by Peter Cavicchia

Peter Cavicchia is a retired U.S. Secret Service Senior Executive, now Chairman of the security consulting firm Strategic Services International LLC.

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