Campus Safety: A Hot Topic Among Students

Jessica Branks, News Writer • jsbranks16@ehc.edu

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Caroline Mosteller

On September 14, John Holloway, the Vice President for Student Life and Student Success and Dean of Inclusion sent an email to the Emory & Henry student body regarding “reports led by several students related to an unknown suspicious person on campus.” The email stated that the “Campus Police Departments assisted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in apprehending a homeless man seen around campus.” In the wake of these events, the college has been making changes to the campus’ security infrastructure, and will continue to do so in the coming months.

According to the Emory & Henry website, the college “has been ranked one of the safest institutions of higher learning in the nation.” This ranking is in spite of the fact that the campus is somewhat open to the public. The Campus Safety Report from 2015 states that “the general public is welcome to attend most cultural and sports events, unless otherwise stipulated. However, the general public does not have access to the campus or college facilities on a regular, routine basis.” Addressing this policy, Holloway said that “it just takes someone from some other location that is not a part of the Emory community or the Meadowview community to visit, and cause some problems.” The case of the homeless man on campus illustrates this reality.

In the wake of these events, as well as the recent opening of townhouse-style student housing in what is colloquially known as The Village, the college has installed cameras and blue light phones, and will be installing more cameras soon. The cameras that are currently installed and operational are all in the village, as are the outside blue-light phones. Another 25 cameras “are on order and will be strategically placed around campus for added security” according to Holloway’s email.

 

The blue light phones have been well-received, and are commonplace on other college campuses across the country. Code Blue is one of the many companies that manufacture these systems, and according to their website they are “designed to assist campus environments” and “help keep students, travelers, employees and visitors safe.” The estimated cost for one of these systems is approximately $2,000. Outdoor blue light phones have been installed in the newly-constructed village. Additional emergency phones are also installed across campus inside or attached to various public buildings and residence halls. Blue light systems are commonplace across the county, and according to an article in Campus Safety Magazine, “the best method for a comprehensive security plan is to employ both blue light phones and mobile apps, along with other emergency communication solutions.” Emory & Henry does currently use the LiveSafe app for safety alerts.

 

While the blue lights have not been a cause for alarm amongst Emory & Henry students, the installation of cameras in the village has caused some discomfort. By some counts there are as many as 31 security cameras within an area no larger than a football field. These cameras have been placed in breezeways outside of the townhouse entrances, and there is currently one camera installed for every unit.

Sophomore Senator Orlando Martinez is aware of the discomfort that this has caused, and has drafted a petition in response to the deci- sion which states that the position and number of cameras is “raising concerns about the privacy of students, and the camera’s ability to see through the front windows.” As of September 26, the petition has gained 43 signatures.

 

However, Holloway has insisted that these cameras are not a cause for concern, saying that “the cameras were positioned there just for the safety of each apartment.” The cameras record for a set period, and the footage can be called upon in the case of an incident requiring surveillance footage. The footage that they collect cannot be monitored by Campus Police in real-time. The administration has yet to install any outdoor cameras in the main areas of campus, but plans to do so soon.

Another issue of perennial concern at Emory & Henry is poor lighting in walkways and parking areas. A floodlight is currently placed in the center of campus to illuminate a larger section of the walkway to Wiley-Jackson Hall. However, the standard lighting fixtures across campus are far less bright, and do a poor job of lighting the area. However, this issue is not necessarily easy to fix. Holloway said, “cost is a major issue…If you notice, the lights that are in the parking lot and on the street area; they illuminate a whole lot more. To change the bulbs from the existing ones in the interior part of campus would be $7,000 a piece.”

Holloway went on to say that redoing a majority of the lights on the interior campus “would be over $200,000”. Because of these prohibitive expenses, the administration is currently considering other options, such as flood lights affixed to campus buildings (as is seen on the King Center).

 

There are several other additions to the state of campus security that are being proposed to the administration. Holloway said that one of the options being considered is implementing “campus safety officers, or auxiliary safety officers.” These would be students working in the Campus Police Department, and taking on minor roles in maintaining campus security.

This variety of work-study program is implemented on numerous other college campuses including those of Pennsylvania State University, Notre Dame College and South Florida State College. Another potential option that is being considered is the addition of a dispatch line for the Campus Po- lice Department. This would hopefully eliminate the number of calls to the Campus Police that go unanswered, regardless of the hour.

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