Well, the college year is upon us. Freshmen are settling into their dorms and upperclassmen have staked out their favorite on- and off-campus spots, old and new. Spirits are up and guards, unfortunately, are down.
At the beginning of each new year, campus safety is the topic du jour. Everyone’s on alert, everyone’s taking at least basic precautions. But then, as is human nature, we settle into routines and get used to all the new. We feel safe, even though the only thing that changes from August to September is our attitude.
Consider National Campus Safety Awareness Month – aka September – to be your nudge, your push, your megaphone-announcement (whatever works) that safety is a year-round thing. So spread the word far and wide, and share this list of campus safety tips with friends and loved ones:
1. Know Your Surroundings
It seems like such a “gimme,” but knowing your surroundings is half the battle when it comes to campus safety. Know where is safe to walk, be it in a group or alone, by day or by night. Know when to take a cab or hop on the bus. Don’t walk with headphones on or walk head down while texting or playing on your phone, and always be observant of whether you’re being watched or followed. (And if you are, step into a local business or other safe place.)
2. Practice Safe Interneting
College life has gone completely digital, so your classes, your communications, your projects, your everything are on the computer and in the cloud. Keep your information safe with strong passwords and secure connections. If you’re unsure of how to stay safe digitally, talk to campus tech support. Installing credible malware and virus protection is also a good place to start. Avoid free download sites for entertainment, such as much and movie services that are not reputable.
3. Seek Healthy Relationships
We’re not just talking romantic relationships, but all relationships. Good college friends are lifelong friends, so seek them out. Forget the fakers and cherish honest, faithful friends. Friends don’t pressure friends or leave them stranded. Surround yourself with people who treat you with respect and support. The same goes for romance: look for a respectful, kind partner who values you. Speaking of which…
4. Know What Consent Looks Like
Consent is not just a nodded head or a murmured “yes”; it’s a conscious decision that is made heartily and without pressure. And consent is something that is only truly given when sober, by the way. Also speaking of which…
5. Drink Responsibly
For many college students, the university years go hand-in-hand with drinking (often, underage drinking). If you choose to have a drink, do it responsibly. Know your limit. Never, ever drive or bike drunk. Don’t walk home alone, at night, when you’re drunk. And if you’re planning to drink, also make plans to avoid potentially dangerous situations (e.g. being alone at an unfamiliar frat house).
6. And Finally, Be an Active Bystander
Being an active bystander means being willing to get involved if you see someone in trouble. Speak up if you witness violence, assault or other unwelcome behavior. Call campus security or the police, if necessary. Step in to help a fellow student in need. Speak up to speak out against rape, assault, misogyny and similar issues. Advocate for yourself and your fellow students.
Stay safe this year!