Photo by Anna Meassick | The Blue Light system allows students to alert authorities as they’re walking across campus.
The safety of college campuses is always a top concern amongst students and parents and even with various safety precautions in place, doubts about campus safety continue to be at the forefront.
Stephen Baker, director of Public Safety and chief of Police at the University of Rhode Island argues that the campus is safer than most students may think. “Our mission is to keep everyone safe here on campus,” Baker said. “Not only students but faculty, staff and visitors.”
Baker elaborated on the extensive precautions taken on campus to keep student safety a top priority. One measure that students are not very familiar with is the option of Safe Rides, an on-campus transportation service that can be utilized by calling 874-SAFE to receive a ride on campus in the event that a student feels unsafe.
In addition, police are consistently present throughout the campus during the night. Blue lights are spread across the campus with one being visible wherever you are on campus at all times. In the event that the blue light is used, an officer should be present within two minutes or less.
“Ideally, you would like to see one blue light from another blue light,” Baker said. “A little more than half of our blue lights are actually connected to our emergency alert system, with a red light on top which can be set off in an emergency.”
The red lights on top of the blue lights take safety measures even further. Baker explains how messages are sent roughly 800 feet from the red lights in the event of an emergency.
Regarding the future, Baker explains that services are constantly being improved to maintain students standards ensure students are as safe as possible. He states, “We listen to our students when they have issues, there is a student advisory, a committee that has formed that actually advises the police department about what measures they would like to see.”
In addition, he also discusses a potential shuttle system that may arise in the near future, in which a shuttle is present on campus through all hours of the night to transport students in the event of it being necessary.
While it is apparent that proper safety measures are taken outdoors, the question of safety inside of residence halls is still present. With many universities utilizing cameras and a proper sign-in system for visitors in on-campus residences, the absence of these resources at URI leaves some students questioning their safety.
Associate Director of Residential Education, Amanda Downey, provides a reassuring argument explaining her philosophy concerning safety in residential buildings.
“You have to strike a balance,” Downey explained. “You want to find the right balance between wanting students to experience independence and start having independent experiences, while at the same time putting some precautions and safety nets in place.”
With this balance, Downey believes students residing in residential buildings have a proper amount of freedom to have guests at the student’s own will. However, in the event of a non-student causing a problem to arise, the student in which they are visiting is responsible for their guest and will receive consequences. Downey also explains how something as simple as the keypad on every dorm room door actually provides a great amount of safety.
“With these, we have the ability to track and to know who is coming in and out of the buildings,” said Downey. “Along with the additional pin code entered after a student swipes into their room is in place so that we can give you that double-level of safety.”
In addition, Downey emphasized the amount of staff on campus that is put through very much training to foster an environment in which students feel as though they have a proper amount of freedom while knowing that they are protected in the event of an emergency.
“We have our RA staff, RAM staff, graduate hall directors, hall directors, even area coordinators,” Downey said. “We have all sorts of staff who are here to not only build community but ensure student safety.”
Downey explained how the future of indoor safety will be enhanced through the addition of security cameras inside of dorms. Obviously wanting to maintain the balance and guarantee privacy, she stated, “They are only going to be in public spaces because with the balance, we don’t want students to worry about having cameras in their living space and losing any sense of privacy.”
Students also agree that campus safety measures are enough, Rhode Island resident and URI sophomore, Carly Furtado, argues that she feels perfectly safe on campus.
She states, “I feel completely safe on campus. We are in the middle of nowhere in Rhode Island, of course, I feel safe.”
Nolan Flynn, a sophomore at URI and also lifetime Rhode Island resident, also explained how he feels safe on campus, stating, “I have always felt safe in Rhode Island. I honestly feel like we don’t have to take crazy safety measures to make people feel safe since we are a rural campus.”