Campus security remains a national concern

By Editor-in-Chief

As shootings and other campus security threats rise throughout the country, many of the nation’s top college officials are grappling with how to institute security measures that don’t sacrifice personal freedom to public safety. 

College communities across the nation are struggling to determine whether their campuses are safe enough, and if not, how to address the problem, and Columbia is no exception.

Columbia’s open campus atmosphere is considered by some a major part of what makes the college collaborative and connected to its South Loop home, feeding into the creative, expressive personality the college embodies.

Still, some worry about the safety risks posed by having campus buildings spread throughout several city blocks. The campus structure allows students to navigate the South Loop on their way to classes, but the lack of a need to check in or swipe a card to enter campus buildings has some concerned. 

The debate on whether the nation’s colleges are too open in general is taking place among some of the country’s top campus security chiefs, as reported in an Oct. 6 New York Times article.

“There’s very few campuses that have walls and fences where they can control who comes and goes,” William F. Taylor, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators said following the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon.

While the informality of the Columbia campus is unlikely to change—nor would many of us want it to—there are other factors to consider in terms of Columbia’s on-campus safety precautions. 

The 2014–2015 Annual Crime Statistics and Fire Safety Report, released to the college community in a Sept. 30 email from the Office of Campus Safety & Security, announced that on-campus crimes increased to 39 from 27 instances the previous year.

The increase may not seem alarming, but indicates that more must be done to ensure members of the campus community are safe as they go about their daily lives. 

One of the measures taken this year to boost visibility of campus security called for changing the uniforms of the college’s contracted security officers to include a patch that signifies they work for Columbia and better advertises their presence on campus, as reported in the Front Page story. 

With many colleges concerned about how open their environments are, worrying about the ease with which intruders might be able to invade a campus and cause harm, several enforce policies involving the requirement to show a student, staff or faculty ID upon entering campus buildings to prevent intruders from trespassing.

As reported in the Front Page story, Associate Vice President of Safety & Security Ron Sodini said some of Columbia’s buildings do require an ID to be shown before a person can enter and some rooms can only be entered with use of an electronic keypad with an code that few campus members would have access to.

Another recent effort made to boost safety on campus was the creation of a student advisory committee, which Sodini said he meets with on a monthly basis to discuss campus safety concerns and potential remedies.

These efforts are steps in the right direction, but the college should consider inviting feedback from the entire student body to better understand what safety issues concern students most.