You’ve probably heard that college students through the 1950s and 60s lived in sex-segregated dorms (if not on entirely sex-segregated campuses), had dress codes and curfews, and partied with chaperones present. Colleges thought of themselves as parents in absentia and watched out for their kids.
Those days are over and you now enjoy the freedom to wear your PJs to class, consort with coeds right in your own dorm room, and party yourself into oblivion on a Tuesday night without anyone over 22 watching. Most of you wouldn’t trade the freedoms of today for the safety that came with the restrictions of yesteryear. But it does mean that it’s up to you to learn more about safety on campus.
That’s why Appalachian sponsors Safety Week the first week of September–to remind you that here in your new campus community you are expected to follow the safety rules and regulations that keep yourself and those around you safe from harm.
Thinking about safety in your new environment can be overwhelming but let’s break it down to a few legit items of concern.
PERSONAL PROPERTY. You’ve probably heard that it’s possible that your bike, your car, your computer, you cell phone, your wallet, and your tablet could get stolen or broken into. Although it’d be nice if we rid the world of any desire to steal your stuff, while we work on that please keep your stuff locked and/or with you at all times–and leave other people’s stuff alone, even if it’s unlocked or unattended.
FIRE. You may have already had a fire drill in your dorm room and you know that it’s totally uncool to burn candles and stuff in your dorm. The important thing is to think about what you can do to prevent disasters and take the rules and drills seriously because they save lives. When I was in a basement bar during college the bouncers were letting in so many people that no one would have been able to get out the entrance if the bar caught fire. Some safety person had taught me to locate the emergency exits in places like this and assess my safety. I was glad I knew to do that and got out of there.
SEXUAL ASSAULT. Although it’d be nice if we rid the world of anyone who’d attempt to sexually assault someone, while we work on that please consider taking a self-defense course. These can be especially empowering for women because so many girls have learned that they are not strong or even entitled to be strong and mean when they need to be. You can take free self-defense classes from the nationally known R.A.D. program. Women who take self-defense report feeling stronger, better, and more effective in the world after taking these classes–whether or not they ever use the skills in self-defense. Turns out speaking up for yourself helps you in all areas of life, not just if you need to fight off some dude who won’t take no for an answer. See how to sign up for a self-defense class here.
Mountaineer Safe Ride offers safe and secure transportation for students during the evening hours. Don’t ever feel stuck–call Safe Ride.
INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE. Appalachian also engages in the national Red Flag Campaign, designed to educate everyone about the signs of interpersonal violence and report those signs whether you are experiencing them or someone else is. Like, did you know it’s a red flag that someone wants to be with you all the time and know where you are and who you’re with all the time? Our culture may teach us that such things should feel “romantic.” But that’s not romance, it’s a red flag. Acting jealous and possessive? Not romance; red flag.
HIGH-RISK DRINKING. Of course we know you’d avoid a lot of problems if you would only follow the laws of society and not drink until you’re 21 or older, but since we have been unsuccessful urging you to follow the law, we do want to explain to you the trouble you can get into if you engage in high-risk drinking. If you’re planning to drink while you’re at college, consider the impact it could have on your personal safety, your health, and academic progress–to name only a few–and then attend a workshop on high-risk drinking.
SUICIDE. Nothing seems more tragic than a young person’s taking her or his own life when they actually have so much ahead of them. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, people are available 24/7 to help you through your struggles.
OTHER RISKS. For other risks that could affect the entire campus, AppState-Alert, the university’s 24/7 emergency messaging system.
EVENTS FOR SAFETY WEEK. Throughout Safety Week at Appalachian, interpersonal violence prevention training, suicide prevention training, and high-risk prevention training for faculty, staff, and students will be offered in Plemmons Student Union. Details here.
A lot of FYS students will be attending the annual Walk for Awareness on Sept. 2 at 9 p.m., which begins outdoors on Sanford Mall. This is the 25th anniversary of the walk that began in 1989 following the abduction and murder of a university employee and the abduction and sexual assault of a university student. While those women were attacked by a stranger, the far more common problem is that many women, and some men, are sexually assaulted by unarmed males they know or party with. The Walk for Awareness events focus on these more common problems we face, and ask you to think not only about your own safety but the safety of those around you. Prior to the walk, the program “Why Walk? – A Survivor’s Story” will be presented in Room 114 Belk Library and Information Commons.
Information tents will be located on Sanford Mall for the annual Safety Festival Sept. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The theme of the festival, “It’s Up to Me,” reflects the university’s continuing campaign to educate students, faculty, and staff about the importance of taking personal responsibility for making campus and the community a safe environment, as well as the responsibility to speak out when they witness the unsafe behavior of others. In case of severe weather, the event will be canceled.
During the evening of Sept. 3, campus representatives will visit off-campus student housing for “House Calls” and will distribute information about personal safety and campus resources. Find more information here.
Bottom line: Safety Week will likely bombard you with information about the dangers of living on your own here at Appalachian, but we aren’t trying to debilitate you with fear. There are things you can do to help keep yourself, and others, safe. Learn more about them and do them. Efforts are highlighted during Safety Week, but safety won’t end that week. Appalachian Cares is an ongoing health and safety initiative and you can learn more about it here. You might even want to become a peer educator and help others learn more about promoting health and safety.