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McDonald ’14: Playing it safe and the risks of student life

Opinions Columnist
Thursday, February 9, 2012


How safe do you feel as you walk to your dorm room? Once the sun has set, do you walk around the campus alone or with a friend? When heading from the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center to the Main Green or from Keeney Quadrangle to Perkins Hall or Young Orchard, have you ever taken a stroll with some friendly safewalkers or hopped aboard a SafeRide? Because of statistics that inform us that Providence has been listed as among the cities with the highest property crime rates, ensuring the student body’s safety is one of the University’s most urgent priorities. The University has established quite a few different means to guard the safety of its students, but do these measures really suffice? Are we safe enough?

During my freshman year, I lived in Keeney and though I was always careful to pay attention to my surroundings, I never felt vulnerable or unprotected. Now as a sophomore who lives quite some distance away from the Main Green in Machado House and who must trek occasionally from one end of the campus to the other, I realize that I have mastered the art of throwing glances over my shoulder and of walking in large groups. I have also become more aware of the number of reported Crime Alert statements issued by the University’s Department of Public Safety within the last year. Since March 6, 2011, nine robberies, armed and unarmed, and assault cases have taken place on College Hill. This is in comparison to the annual 8,403 property crimes and 1,217 violent crimes that occurred in the city of Providence. 

Take a few seconds to assess your personal investment in your safety. How many outdoor emergency phones are installed on the University campus? Do you know the number off the top of your head? If necessary, would you know where to look if you needed to direct yourself to one of the phones without delay? According to the DPS website, “there are approximately 134 outdoor emergency phones located on or near the exterior of all residence halls and most university buildings. They are also located on the campus walkways, at the parking garage, and additionally there are 45 elevator phones in various campus buildings.” Have you installed the Rave Guardian service, which allows DPS to respond to panic calls or precautionary timer calls, on your cell phone yet? Are you aware of programs such as the Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Systems Basic Self-Defense Course or Self-defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange (S.A.F.E.) Program?

I fear that the real danger lies in a lack of conscientiousness and awareness. In spite of the potentially dangerous situations in which I have found myself, I rarely take advantage of friendly safewalkers’ company and have never programmed DPS services into my cell phone to ensure my own safety. Furthermore, although SafeRide vans circulate around the campus on a timed schedule, many SafeRide vans travel without any passengers between midnight and 1 a.m., a time frame when many students are making their way out of the libraries and heading to their rooms. Streets north of Waterman and south of George are rarely well-lit, but few students carry around flashlights or other objects to make themselves and their path visible, while others can be seen fumbling in the dark for keys and ID cards. The prospect of being attacked or robbed hardly seems a reality to many Brunonians.

Furthermore, as I examine DPS’ Crime Alert statements, I realize that in the five reports that specified victims’ genders, eight victims were male-identified. This leads me to wonder if the gendering of safety has negatively impacted the nature of security at the University. Many of the self-defense workshops and programs — like the aforementioned R.A.D. Course or S.A.F.E. Program — are designed for female-identified students. And while female-identified students are often encouraged to keep their eyes open for little signs of danger, male-identified students do not receive nearly as many warnings. In a discussion about the recent assaults and robberies on College Hill, one of my male classmates admitted, “I really don’t know what I’d do if I someone suspicious approached me. I’ve never really had to think about it.”

As students living away from home, it is our responsibility to look out for ourselves and for each other. It is, however, the responsibility of the University to keep us aware before and after the safety of any or all students is jeopardized. Streets that lead to dorms and off-campus housing away from the Main Green can be better lit and more DPS programs can be accessible to students regardless of gender. DPS and student groups can work conjointly to facilitate more workshops and programs to bridge the gap between true security and student life. There is no need to live in fear at your home away from home. We cannot stop criminality, but we can put an end to needless vulnerability.



Helen McDonald ’14 is armed with a

 flashlight and can be reached at

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