University News

Survey finds students not afraid of the dark

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brown, like any urban campus, is vulnerable to the dangers of the city. But students seem to feel fairly confident about their safety, according to last month’s Herald poll.

Only about 10 percent of students surveyed said they felt unsafe on campus, while about 90 percent said they felt safe on campus at night. Of those surveyed, 96.7 percent of men and 84.3 percent of women said they felt safe on campus at night.

Natali Senocak ’13 also told The Herald she felt safe on campus. While other parts of Providence might be less safe than the East Side, she said the city in general “feels small and safe,” especially when compared with her native city, Istanbul.

“We feel quite good about” the poll results, said Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, senior vice president for Corporation affairs and governance and a member of a University committee formed to examine pedestrian safety on campus.

The fact that most students feel safe reflects the improvements and expansions the University has made to campus safety measures in recent years, he added. The goal is to make Brown’s campus a place where people do not come to commit crimes, he said.

The Department of Public Safety has focused its efforts on making students, faculty and staff informed about issues of campus safety and making them “a true partner” in keeping the campus safe, said Paul Shanley, deputy chief of the department. Reducing the number of targets of crimes out on streets late at night is a very important component of reducing crime in the area, he said.

Recent years have seen expansions of safety-related services on campus and in the number of Brown police officers, Shanley said.

In addition to the commonly known services including SafeWalk and SafeRide, the University also provides a mobile alert system and self-defense classes, among other programs, Carey said. Though the University gets good feedback on is SafeRide service, administrators would like to see more community members taking advantage of all the services offered, he said.

DPS tracks its own success at campus safety largely by the number of crimes that occur on or around the campus, Carey said. The number of violent street crimes has been cut in half over the last five years, he said.

The department also did its own survey through the Office of Institutional Research about campus safety as part of the University’s 2009 reaccreditation process. It found that 95.1 percent of respondents felt at least generally safe at Brown, a figure even higher than that found by The Herald’s poll.

The Undergraduate Council of Students works on behalf of students to improve campus safety, and makes it a priority, as a student government and as students concerned about their own safety, said Diane Mokoro ’11, the council’s president.

The council has been “making advances” in negotiating with the University to develop an alternate SafeRide route that would run the opposite direction from the current one, Mokoro said. But the vans might have to decrease their frequency as a result, she said.

UCS has also been advocating for an expanded SafeWalk program to make walkers available at earlier and later times or on more days, Mokoro said.

Even if many students do not actually take advantage of the walking services, SafeWalk student workers also serve the function of being around on campus after dark, providing more people on the ground whose concern is safety and who have direct access to DPS to report incidents, Mokoro said.

Senocak has been escorted by SafeWalk, but more because the student workers are fun to talk to than because she felt unsafe, she said. One of her roommates took the self-defense class but has never had to use what she learned, she said.

One component of campus safety students may not think of first is the safety of pedestrian traffic. Following a few tragic incidents that raised questions about pedestrian safety on campus, Carey announced the creation of a committee to examine the issue. The committee has focused on improving both physical aspects of pedestrian safety, like crosswalk paint and appropriate signage, and on educating pedestrians and drivers alike about their rights and responsibilities, Carey said.

Going forward, the University will continue to work to improve its safety programs and patrol operations, to raise awareness of the services available and to advise community members on how they can be safer, Carey said. “There’s always room for improvement,” he said.

The Herald poll was conducted Nov. 1–2 and has a 3.0 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. For the subset of men, the margin of error is 4.2 percent. For the subset of women, the margin of error is 4.1 percent. A total of 915 students completed the poll, which The Herald distributed as a written questionnaire in the University Mail Room in J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ‘62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night.