SAFE & SOUND: EXAMINING CAMPUS SECURITY
How safe from physical harm is Union College?
Sitting in class you are jolted awake by your phone’s vibration. Stealthily, you slide it from your pocket and onto your lap, unlocking it to see the text alert announcing, “Shooter on campus, remain in your classroom.”
You tell yourself it’s a drill, but then you hear loud noises coming from outside the classroom. Are the doors locked? Why isn’t everyone hiding out of sight from their windows—and why are the lights turned off? The door knob begins to jiggle, and just as the door swings open, you wake up. It was only a nightmare. You breathe a sigh of relief as you realize it was only a dream.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a dream for far too many educational institutions.
The good news? A majority of Union College students responded positively when asked if they felt safe from physical harm. Dalton Brunot, a transfer student from one our sister schools, stated, “The campus just has a different feel than that of my former educational institutions. I feel safe walking from the Student Center to the dormitories at night. It is comforting knowing we have a police station right here on campus.”
When speaking with Ron Dodds, head of campus security, I was surprised to learn this campus is one of the safest in Lincoln. According to Dodds, crime begins to increase two blocks west of campus due to the police substation located here on campus.
Though Dodds is available 24/7 for his security and RA staff, if a situation arises in need of higher authority, be it a stabbing, shooting or theft, the staff must to go through the proper protocols and call the police. Dodds values the Lincoln Police Department, a relationship he’s cultivated for the last 25 years, as an additional protection for our campus. “Security employees of Union College must call 911 for all major situations before calling me,” he asserts.
“I know first-hand that security employees desire to work side by side with the police,” shared former security worker Spencer Curtis. He recalled an incident that happened while he was on shift, “It was the 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. on a weekday, and everything was going smoothly, when I spotted two unidentified perpetrators enter the thunderdome.” He naturally wanted to investigate further, but remembering his training, called the police and let the proper authorities handle the situation. Instances like these are prime examples of the fluidity of security that can be found on Union’s campus.
However, despite Union’s best efforts, a student was accosted and raped many years ago. (To protect the identity of the victim, the details of this event will not be published here, but you may talk to school administration if you’d like to learn more.) While no other publically reported rape has occurred on this college’s campus, we still must ask: what measures in place are keeping this from happening again?
An article from CNN entitled “CNN.com readers: Are we safe on campus?” stated, “Some students, professors and campus police officers argue a person determined to kill cannot be stopped, but say they are doing everything they can to put a proper security system in place.” According to Chris Kirk of Slate.com, there have been over 140 school shootings resulting in over 300 deaths since 1980. This is a haunting statistic—one that campuses do all they can to prevent from growing.
So, Union: where do we go from here? Continue on to “Fixing the Problem” to find out.
FIXING THE PROBLEM: LOCKING DOWN UNION COLLEGE
Proven practices we can initiate to make physical safety a priority
In the 2012 article “Only 'A Good Guy With A Gun' Can Stop School Shootings, NRA Says”, published by NPR, regarding the Sandy Hooks Elementary School shooting, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre stated, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Many agree with this statement—but there are those who disagree as well.
One can debate the validity of Second Amendment to our day and age, and whether or not guns should be restricted, but does that really solve our problems? The fact of the matter is bad people will do bad things no matter what laws we create, or how stringently we enforce them.
Edmund Burke, a long-deceased philosopher once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The question is, what do we do with these two very different philosophies?
When a gunman is on campus, according to the Department of Homeland Security, you have three options: run, hide or fight. Very few attempts to subdue an armed aggressor end successfully. An FBI data report released in January 2014, demonstrates that between 2000 and 2012, only 16 percent of shooters were subdued or shot by victims before authorities arrived.
To stop evil in this world, and specifically on this campus, we must refrain from doing nothing. Part of what makes this campus safe, and will continue to make it safe is how we greet each other. Our faculty and staff model this to us each day by greeting us on the sidewalks and between classes.
Safety websites report one of the ways to keep a campus safe is a practice Union College has been doing for years. We say “hello” to one another. According to Neal Raisman, in his article “10 Steps to Creating a More Secure Campus”, published in 2007, saying hello to one another helps keep a campus safe by creating a community that cares about each other. Besides fostering stronger relationships, these greetings help identify disgruntled students and demonstrate to the community that Union College cares about the people who come onto its campus.
Another way to maintain a safe campus is by implementing a camera system that can follow any person across campus from the minute they enter until they leave. This kind of camera system can be found on the campuses of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Concordia University in Seward. We can keep our campus safe by better ability to identify and follow persons that choose to deface or harm people on this campus.
Another successfully proven practice is for students to keep their doors locked and valuables put away. We as a campus are sometimes too trusting, and it unfortunately takes an act of vandalism or larceny to remind us to keep our valuables locked up. This suggestion is not out of paranoia, but rather a common sense approach for the time in which we live.
The fact of the matter is, we live in a dangerous world. Yes, we have a relatively sheltered environment here on Union’s campus, but that doesn’t change the fact that things go wrong sometimes. With every negative statistic you can find, there is another positive one to combat it. Union works to continue making positive changes, whether it’s through updates to the security cart’s nightly circuit or a bill from the Student Senate for improved lighting around campus. The greatest improvements here come from you, the students. Your voices matter and make a difference on this campus. United, we can make this campus a better place, in action and intent to do right by each other. United, we can stay safe and sound.
For more information on Union’s physical safety, see the 2013 Security Report and Fire Safety Report.
Campus Security is available Monday-Friday at 402-486-2507. On evenings and weekends call 402-432-3964 and in emergency, 402-486-2911.
Kyle is a senior studying language arts education.