7 Actions to Help Lower Campus Sexual Assault Risks
Close to 3 million first-year students are expected to attend undergraduate school in the US this year. But excitement can be overshadowed by risks, including sexual assault or other misconduct. The danger is especially high during the first 90 days of the school year, a period known as the “red zone.”
Higher education institutions are responsible for providing a safe environment for all students, including younger students who are particularly vulnerable due to social immaturity and their new freedoms. Here are seven ways you can better protect your institution and student body.
- Set up a robust orientation program: Equip new students with the tools to cope with their life on campus, keeping in mind that their newfound freedom might cause them to make unwise decisions. Inform them of potential dangers and what they should be looking out for on- and off-campus. Let them know who they should contact if they find themselves in trouble and encourage them to intervene if they see a danger to another student. Also consider bringing in upper classmen to share their experiences.
- Encourage a buddy system: Urge new students to stay in groups of three or more and never leave an event alone. Most colleges and universities have formalized this program, with security officers available to escort students so they don’t have to walk alone.
- Educate resident advisors: Make sure that RAs diligently monitor dorms to ensure safety. Provide them with information and guidelines on what to do in specific circumstances.
- Ensure physical security of properties: Install lockable doors with keycards that monitor and record who is going in and out of buildings and enforce security so students don’t leave windows and doors open. Some institutions have staffed entry areas where IDs are checked periodically.
- Coordinate efforts between campus security and local law enforcement: There should be agreement between the two parties on how to respond to different scenarios. Local law enforcement must have a clear line of sight into any changes in campus layout, especially areas mostly frequented by first-year students.
- Monitor outside student organizations: Any locations where students congregate or live should be observed diligently to ensure they are providing the necessary protections for student safety and adhering to requirements. This includes abiding with the recent North-American Interfraternity Conference decision to ban drinks above 15% alcohol from member fraternities’ and sororities’ facilities or events unless sold by licensed third parties.
- Repeat and reinforce: It’s essential that information is not solely delivered to students during the orientation period. Instead, it should be highlighted throughout the year, including online and over social channels. If there is an incident, consider reviewing policies and bringing RAs together to discuss ground rules and strategies for prevention.
Further, higher education entitles should have a sound crisis management plan in case of an incident. They should also look to secure broad, yet tailored, insurance protection, including coverage for defense costs, in case an incident takes place.