CEO, Universities West,
Sodexo North America
President, Sodexo Canada
Often a stepping stone from childhood to young adulthood, college acts as a safe environment in which students can explore life beyond high school before entering the workforce. As these students anticipate a taste of independence, many of their parents face the confusion and discomfort associated with preparing their child for the next phase of their life. The college experience, albeit one of the most transformative experiences for young adults, can be a scary and intimidating journey for parents as they consider their students’ safety on campus. Our job is to build an environment which not only creates convenience for parents and students but also serves as a safe, comfortable place for students to learn and grow.
It’s becoming increasingly important for campuses to consider the physical safety of our students by coordinating our living environments and implementing programs designed to safeguard them from the physical dangers associated with living at college. Surrounded by new people and in a new environment, where peer pressure is at its highest, college students face issues detrimental to their physical safety and well-being, and the results can have considerable effects on their psyche.
As parents, worrying about our children is habitual, and this is especially prevalent as they prepare for college. Finding the right institution usually requires a balance of practicality, cost effectiveness, location, and preferred academic requirements. Another important factor is the issue of safety. U.S. News alerts parents of ten safety-related aspects they should consider when helping their students look for a college. These include finding out what each campus does to create a safe environment, how the institution communicates with students in times of emergency, the location and accessibility of emergency services (like police and security), and what preventative programs are offered on campus to inform and protect students.
In the latest chapter of the President to President series, Dr. Edward Ray, president of Oregon State University, explains how to combat a negative campus culture through programs focused on students’ safety and security. Oregon State University’s initiatives include the on-campus Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center, which addresses drug and alcohol abuse and supports those who are recovering from it. In 2013, the University also launched its Collegiate Recovery Community, which aids those recovering from addiction and substance abuse as they continue their education. Other initiatives include programs like “Beavers Give A Dam,” which works in conjunction with the violence prevention department of Student Health Services. These programs increase awareness among Oregon State student athletes, members of Greek life, and the student government and are just a few of the University’s initiatives to proactively advocate for a safer student environment.
We know that creating a safe campus means establishing and implementing programs like those at Oregon State University. However, each campus can integrate little changes to cultivate a culture of safety. These include teaching campus employees to be more welcoming and open to let students know the institution cares, increasing lighting throughout the entire campus, increasing security patrols, keeping the campus clean and uncluttered, establishing an identification program, and keeping in constant communication with the campus community and students.. Working to cultivate a safe campus not only benefits students, but also keeps parents confident knowing their children are protected as they navigate the very beginning stages of adulthood.