The key to staying safe on campus revolves around using common sense and taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
“It’s now up to you,” says Chris Goss, the operations manager of the University of Waterloo Police Service.
Goss says there are supports available at the university and he encourages students to use them, but ultimately it comes down to personal responsibility.
At campuses across the country, schools focus on educating first-year students about what they should and shouldn’t be doing to remain safe on campus. Most schools also have things like safe walk programs, counselling services and emergency phones in place to make the campus a safer place.
Goss says it’s important students be aware of the resources available before they need them. He also recommends students get to know their campuses and find out where things are located.
The biggest safety issue at Canadian universities is theft, says Bill Mowbray, the director of campus security services at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
He says students should never leave behind their personal possessions, even if it’s just for a minute. Mowbray also recommends that bike riders get proper locks for their bikes and not just use a chain lock. For students in residence, he recommends locking the door if they leave their rooms.
Mowbray’s advice is simple when it comes to preventing theft: “Lock it up or take it with you.”
The newfound freedom of being away from home for the first time, along with the stress that can come with it means some students turn to alcohol.
“Drinking to excess brings with it its own issues,” says Mowbray, such as loss of property and physical and sexual assaults.
“Don’t drink to excess,” he cautions. “Have a good time. Have a couple drinks with your friends, but always be aware of what’s around you.”
Although university campuses are safe, people must not get complacent, says Mowbray.
“University campuses are the safest parts of our city,” he says. Historically, they have been that way. People get lulled into that false sense that it’s always that way.”
If something is wrong, students must talk to somebody, says Gayle Churchill, the director of student life at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B.
“That’s the big thing,” she says. “To take that step to talk to somebody, whatever it might be.”