Editorial: New Security Policies Off to Good Start

The first few weeks of school have, unfortunately, provided far too many occasions to remind us of the importance of security on campus. Between the off campus murder of a student, an alleged sexual assault, e-mailed bomb threats and now a student allegedly keeping a gun and knives in his dorm room, the University’s heightened emphasis on security has certainly met a “trial by fire.”

The Minaret is pleased to say that we think the new security policies have done a pretty good job meeting the needs of students thus far. There was, unfortunately, little the University could possibly have done to prevent the tragic murder of Samy MacQuilliam.

The alleged assault and the bomb threats, along with the startling weapons incident, were all handled in a timely and apparently transparent manner; safety alerts and global e-mails informed the student body that a threat has been recognized and investigated on campus.

It is The Minaret’s firm conviction that an informed university is a safer university, and the formalized nature of communication that resulted from the Security Study Group report has played a decisive role in keeping students aware.

Yet while communication about specific incidents has been forthcoming to students, The Minaret has noticed a disturbing lack of knowledge among the student body about enhanced security policies in general.

Though it was beneficial for the SSG report to be disclosed in its entirety of 82 pages on Blackboard, and undoubtedly helpful for the two-page executive summary to highlight the main points, this form of presentation failed to capture a significant audience.

Taking a cue from ResLife’s visually appealing flyers and brochures, the University could possibly capture a greater interest by presenting the report in a more effective manner. Perhaps a “Five Things to Know about New Security Policies” pamphlet could be circulated to each student in their Residence Halls. They might include the decision-making process behind safety alerts, the enhanced security force on campus, the victim advocacy program, the SMART text messaging alert, and the “silent witness” forms.

Regarding the latter two, The Minaret is convinced they could have been made great use of in recent incidents if only more students would have known about them. The “silent witness” form could have tipped off authorities before the anonymous call was made to ResLife in the weapons incident, and the SMART alert could have reached a wide audience to inform them of the bomb threats. The Minaret does, however, agree with the University’s decision to reserve the SMART alert for absolute worst-case scenarios and can understand why this device was not made use of in light of the hoaxes at other schools.

Certainly there is great potential for these new policies to be even more effective if they are communicated to students on a greater scale. At a certain point, however, students have to take responsibility for getting informed about security on their own campus.

There needs to be a kind of accountability. If students don’t want to learn about security on their campus, they should not be entitled to complain about being ignorant after a tragic event. If ResLife provides flyers, should they slide them under every student’s door? If they slide them under every door, should they send RAs to supervise them being read? At what point will students admit that their own ignorance is simply their own fault?

The University has undoubtedly made great strides in campus security since last January and looks intent on improving further over the next year. But it will take the active collaboration of the student body to make this campus as secure as it can be.

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