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Campus safety at the forefront of Westminster community’s minds

A lone student walks at night near Black Bridge in the Residential Village on Westminster University’s campus. ”I feel very concerned when I am walking on campus at night,” said Kristin Leidinger, a senior business major. ”I do not feel safe when it is dark
and always ask for a friend to walk with me.” Photo courtesy of Gabe Olivera. Photo description: A student wearing a striped shirt walks at night near Black Bridge in Residential Village, on the Westminster campus. It is dark out and a street light illuminates the path.

Safety on college campuses is one of the main factors that influence students when choosing where their new home will be, according to Blaise Wikstrom, a junior history major.

Westminster University’s environmental health and safety guidelines main goal is to improve safety and prevent injury, according to Westminster’s website. 

“I feel very concerned when I am walking on campus at night,” Kristin Leidinger, a senior majoring in business, said. “I do not feel safe when it is dark and always ask for a friend to walk with me since I do not see any campus patrol around that time.”

Westminster’s Official Crime Log reports 8 cases of suspicious persons/activities and trespassing in 2023, which includes every count of people (or people in cars) being escorted off campus. 

There are plans to “better define campus edges” with physical land-markers in places where “campus begins and ends,” as proposed recently by an extra architecture firm, according to a recent interview with President Dobkin. 

Campus security reported 76 incidents in 2021 and 2022, with 16 and 13 of them being theft related reports respectively, according to Westminster’s official crime log.

Students can track the safety of their campus by accessing the crime log that Westminster must publish as a result of the federal law Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act enacted in 1990, according to rainn.org.

A graph displays Westminster University’s crime log statistics from 2021 to 2023. This shows the
yearly number of recorded incidents on campus. The 2023 stats show the recorded incidents
that have occurred thus far. These statistics are published on westminsteru.edu under the Crime
Reporting page. Graph designed by Kayla Dixon.

One of the safety-related concerns students have is the possibility of gun violence on campus, according to Wikstrom.

“I see all [this] news about school shootings, and I worry about my safety if something like that happens here,” Wikstrom said. 

Over the last ten years, 180 shootings were registered at K-12 schools all over the U.S, according to cnn.com. 

From 2013 to 2022 more than 307 instances of gunfire on college campuses have been registered, with 6 mass shootings, according to bestcolleges.com.

“I heard someone in Stock Hall was kicked out last year for having a weapon in his room,” said Matthew Ampil, a sophomore business major. “I think campus police dealt with it, but it is scary.”

Mass shootings are not the only gunfire deaths registered. 94 people have been killed while another 215 have been injured on college campuses since 2013, according to bestcolleges.com

Westminster University bans weapons from campus in their weapon and law violations guideline, which bars selling or carrying deadly weapons, concealed or openly.

Westminster’s campus police is not an outside service, which means they are not considered law enforcement, according to Tony Russell, director of campus security. 

The security team is formed by 9 members that split work among them by rounds, according to Russell. Campus security has someone on patrol for every day of the year, Russell said. 

“Our main goal is to keep students safe,” Russell said. “I would really like to have two more officers on the team. It is like a police department. You always would like more, but you do what you can with what you have.” 

Sexual assault is another primary concern for students interviewed when talking about safety on campus. One in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90% do not report it, according to pcar.org

“One of my main concerns when thinking about my safety is sexual assault,” Mara Alden, a first-year student majoring in psych, said. “Sexual assault is no joke.”

Westminster University offers Title IX as a support against sexual assault to students, staff, or faculty, according to Westminster’s site.

Another way Westminster attempts to avoid sexual misconduct on campus is by educating the community on affirmative consent, according to Westminster’s Title IX program.

In order to be an affirmative consent, it must contain the follow elements, according to Westminster’s prevention guidelines:

  • Ongoing: Which states that people can change their mind at any time.
  • Specific: Saying yes to one act does not mean yes to any other act but the one stated.
  • Freely Given: Yes is just considered if there is no manipulation or pressure.
  • Enthusiastic: There should not be a feeling of having to do something, but to want to do something.
  • Informed: Not lying or deceiving.

Westminster University’s President Beth Dobkin shared her thoughts on keeping a safe environment on campus.

“We want to make sure that we [remain]an open campus but [are] still safe and secure,” Dobkin said. “That can be challenging sometimes, but I have not seen any significant issues in the recent past.”

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Gabriel Oliveira is a senior at Westminster University majoring in communication who moved from Brazil, and loves playing basketball in front of his home crowd. He is excited to finish his college education and start the next chapter.

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