Security on Campus – An Interview with Abigail Boyer
The majority of the information contained here on HomeSecuritySystems.net tries to promote our visitor’s awareness of the level of security their home has, and to learn tips and methods for increasing that security. Much of our time is spent in our homes but we are now at an age where the rate at which people attend a four-year university after high school is increasing at a rapid rate.
For most people, living in dorms is a very safe and overall crime-free experience. The troubling news is that from time to time crimes on campus do happen but thanks to organizations like Security on Campus, Inc., we can be very grateful that the future leaders of America are going to have a much safer experience.
We at HomeSecuritySystems.net had the fortunate opportunity of getting to know more about the mission of Security on Campus thanks to the Assistant Director of Communications, Abigail Boyer, and she was kind enough to answer some of our questions:
HomeSecuritySystems.net: Security on Campus, Inc. was founded in 1987. What has been its mission and reason for coming into existence as a non-profit organization?
Security On Campus: Security on Campus, Inc. is a nonprofit 501 c(3) organization whose mission is to prevent violence, substance abuse, and other crimes in college and university campus communities across the United States and to compassionately assist the victims of these crimes.
SOC was co-founded in 1987 by Connie and Howard Clery, following the rape and murder of their daughter Jeanne by another student whom she did not know. The Clerys believed that potential and current students, parents, and faculty have the right to be notified of criminal activity occurring on and around their campus. At the core of their efforts is The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires institutions of higher education to release campus crime statistics and security policies to their current and prospective students and employees.
This June SOC will formally become the Clery Center for Security on Campus. Our mission has evolved over the years and we truly are a center for technical assistance, training, education, advocacy, and victim support.
HSS: What has been the biggest obstacle Security on Campus has faced in its campus crime reduction mission and how have you overcome that?
SOC: I am relatively new to the agency, so other people at my agency may be able to speak to this better than I can. However, one notable obstacle is that no campus, university, or individual can predict crime. Certainly, they can take every possible measure to keep campuses safe, but they cannot, and will not, have the ability to know the intentions of every student on campus. What campuses can do, however, is ensure they have the best policies and procedures in dealing with dangerous situations that may arise and respond to campus crime in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of the victim(s) and keeps the community alerted of situations that could be a threat to safety. Furthermore, campuses can do prevention education that encourages students to make good choices for themselves and others and to be good bystander if someone is at risk of getting hurt.
An obstacle that we hear from our constituents is the challenge of institutionalizing crime prevention and response. In order for campus police or security to undertake a holistic approach, there needs to be top-down support from institutional leadership.
Security on Campus, Inc. presents Jeanne Clery Act Training Seminars on best practices in Clery Act compliance so that colleges and universities can have the tools necessary to provide the best prevention and response possible. These trainings not only emphasize the letter of the law but embrace its spirit.
HSS: What is the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics act and how does it help students?
SOC: The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requires all institutions of postsecondary education, both public and private, that participate in federal student aid programs to disclose information about crimes on or around their campuses. In addition, campuses must have emergency response or evacuation procedures in place and provide specific rights to victims of sexual violence.
The Act helps students by raising awareness of situations that could impact their safety, by providing them with necessary education to keep themselves and others safe, and by establishing response policies that are victim-centered.
Although we are in the process of updating our website, our current website has a more detailed description of the Clery Act. You can find that information at www.securityoncampus.org.
HSS: What are some of the most important ways students can ensure their safety both in and out of their dorm rooms?
SOC: There has been a huge shift in prevention education in recent history. Years ago, when asked this question, the response would be focused on risk reduction (i.e. cover your drink, don’t walk alone, etc.) Although it is always important to make decisions that feel safe for you, risk reduction strategies put the focus on the victim, as opposed to the offender. No one asks or deserves to be victimized. Victimization is a community issue, as almost every person knows someone who has been hurt or impacted by crime. Therefore, the focus is now on bystanders. Oftentimes when a crime occurs, other people witnessed questionable behaviors leading up to an attack. There are many ways to be a good bystander, from speaking out if someone makes a derogatory or abusive comment to stopping a friend who is pushing drinks on someone who has chosen not to drink or has had too much to drink. There needs to be a campus environment where people are looking out for one another and intervening in a way that is safe for everyone.
HSS: How can people go about helping further the Security on Campus mission in their own communities?
SOC: People can start by letting the people around them know that violence in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. There are many opportunities in every-day conversation to advocate for victims. For example, if someone makes a joke about victimization, let him or her know (in a non-threatening way) why you don’t find the humor in those types of comments. Doing so, will not only allow the person to rethink what he or she said, but will send the message to others that you are sensitive to these issues. People are far more likely to disclose victimization to someone they know before they go to a campus official, police, etc. and this bystander behavior may let a victim know that you are a safe person to whom they can talk.
People can also get involved in prevention education and work to teach others how to be good bystanders in well. College campuses have many opportunities to get involved in campus safety. An individual could set up a table with information and resources on prescription drug abuse. A campus could host a Take Back the Night Event. A sorority could organize a fundraiser and donate the profits to a victims’ services agency. A parent could help organize a program on campus safety for students who are headed to a college or university.
September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM). Leading up to NCSAM, Security on Campus, Inc. will be offering on their website ideas and resources on how campuses can host successful events.
SOC publishes a biannual newsletter and has an online subscription option. This is all at no charge. People can sign up on our website for updates.