In the early hours of April 5, 1986, Jeanne Clery, a freshman at Lehigh University of Pennsylvania, was beaten, tortured, raped and strangled to death in the bed of her dormitory. This horrific incident sparked a detailed look into how colleges deal with criminal behavior and other safety concerns on campuses across the United States. Legislation spearheaded by the Clery family and other concerned citizens and representatives led to the implementation of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The act not only legislatively guided the hand of safety through requiring yearly reports of crime statistics for college campuses, but also contributed to a more aware and active approach to campus safety and security. The observance of National Campus Safety Awareness Month continues that effort. Here at West Georgia, various departments and groups are committed to student and faculty safety in order to provide a secure campus environment for students to experience college life.
Matt Jordan, Risk Manager for the department of Risk Management/ Environmental Health and Safety, works behind the scenes with the campus community in order to create a “culture of safety.” In order to work towards this goal, Risk Management/EHS oversees that staff receive proper safety training related to their job. By working first hand with the heads of other departments and individual, Jordan and his team address the big picture of safety at the meeting table to guide the members of departments such as Facilities and Housing, and University Police to serve the campus better.
Looking around the UWG campus you can see police cars and SUV’s around every corner. Their presence provides a visible deterrent, and the ability to respond rapidly to incidents on or near campus. Thomas Mackel, Chief of the University Police, and his officers work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to promote “a campus safe for the student to be able to pursue their studies and enjoy the time they have here at UWG”, says Mackel. Aside from being the men and women on the ground, the University Police also provide training programs for students such as crime awareness classes, training for response to an active shooter, and Rape Aggression Defense Class (RAD).
Though many violent crimes have not been an issue at UWG in the past few years according to the crime statistic report released in 2011, robbery and burglary do have the highest incidence rates. “Many students assume that they can leave their property unattended and it will still be there when they get back”, said Mackel. “Most of our burglaries and thefts could be prevented if the students would simply lock their doors when they leave their residence hall”.
Whether it is the residence hall, where they live or the classrooms in which they learn, students have an intimate relationship with the buildings and other facilities around UWG. Individuals such as Brendan Bowen, Chief Facilities Officer at UWG, are hard at work making sure health and safety is a priority in these living and learning environments. “Buildings are designed and maintained with safety in mind,” says Bowen. Technology such as sprinkler and fire alarm systems are present in all buildings, security systems, fume hoods (in science labs) and services such as management of hazardous material are all implemented to maintain safety around the campus.
Students may take for granted the environment they occupy while attending UWG. The fact is that many hands guide the operations and interactions between departments to allow for smooth and safe operation. UWG is a safe campus, but students also need to contribute to maintain safety. Safety training and other awareness programs are useful and implemented to educate students, but safety comes down to one factor, good judgment. “The campus is designed and maintained with a high regard for safety,” says Jordan. “But it’s really up to the student to be aware of the surroundings and make the correct decision”. Through this coordination of students, faculty, and staff, safety is maintained a priority all year long.