Safety on college campuses

Senior students, counselors react to recent violence at universities in preparation for attending after high school


Emma Ismail and Jamie Berman

Ohio State, University of California Los Angeles, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Tuskegee University. College campus violence made the news very frequently in 2016. Almost every school has had an issue with criminal offenses at some point in time, and many of these instances happen to be violent. With dangerous behavior happening on and around college campuses, students struggle with applying and deciding where to attend.

The attack at Ohio State University in late November alarmed many senior students, parents and college counselors in the midst of the application process. Scott James ’17 applied to Ohio State after visiting his sister on campus.

“With the recent attacks [at Ohio State] it’s not something that really worries me because it’s something that could happen at any college campus,” James said. “Just anywhere where there is a gathering of people.”

Recently, the knife attack in Columbus left 11 people hospitalized. The university was shaken, but managed to get the attacker in just a few minutes. The incident appeared all over national news.

“Social media makes it so much easier for us to get information regarding colleges,” Sara English, college career counselor, said. “We can hear about an attack in seconds now, when it used to take hours, or it never made the news at all.”

However, despite the widespread knowledge of shootings and other events due to the media, most prospective college students are not as concerned as the parents are. Students care about protection, but don’t worry about it as much because it can happen to anyone anywhere.

“Being concerned about safety is more of a parent thing, than a student consideration,” Morgan Sanchez ’16 said. “I mean, how could students be concerned? They’re trying to juggle every other factor when choosing a college—it’s too much to think about.”

Sanchez is a current freshman at Ball State University, where there was a shooting on campus in the fall. As a consequence of the shooting, two Ball State students were arrested and one man died.

“I didn’t feel unsafe, mostly because I didn’t know how they would get into my building and it was on the opposite side of campus,” Sanchez said. “I was shocked but I wasn’t really scared, but that can partially be due to the fact that you hear about gun violence every day. It’s only really a surprise when it hits close to home.”

Despite the fact that news reports frequently contain stories about college violence, Sanchez said she didn’t expect so much violence at the beginning of the school year. She attributes this ignorance partially to the feeling of living in the relatively safe Stevenson community.

Kathryn Novkov ’17 feels similarly about possibly attending Ohio State. She applied this year and said she doesn’t really hesitate about being in Columbus.

“I think if we grew up in a city, we would act very differently and we would probably be a lot more prepared to be in the environment [of college] than we are right now,” Novkov said. “I feel like we would take safer precautions.”

“I think Stevenson has protected us very well,” Novkov said. “I’m not sure if it’s prepared us for dangerous situations. I don’t feel ready to be in a place that is not really safe.”

Although Novkov isn’t too worried about security, she admits that it is not perfect. Universities might be working hard to protect the student body, but there is always the possibility of another incident occurring.

“It’s really hard to safeguard so many people especially in an area that is open,” Novkov said. It’s not like it’s some closed in gated place where no one can [come in]. I don’t think it’s really possible to protect everyone.”

The counselors in the College Career Center agree with Novkov’s mentality. All schools will have precautions in place, but it’s hard to keep everybody completely safe, English said.

“There’s issues all over the country and there’s no specific type of the school where violence is more likely to occur,” college career counselor Daniel Miller said. “It can happen anywhere.”

English agrees with Miller regarding the widespread susceptibility to attacks. It’s a situation too broad to be generalized because there’s not one group of people more vulnerable to issues, she said.

“To dismiss a school because they’ve had an issue in the past may be too premature,” English said. “Though it is appropriate to have a conversation with a college representative to see what they have to say.”

Ultimately the college career counselors and Sanchez agree on the fact that an incident in the campus community should not be a primary concern in finding a good college fit. Though it can be a consideration, both said to not let it rule the college search.

“Safety shouldn’t make or break a college choice,” Sanchez said. “But it’s for sure something to think about.”