Student Safety: How To Stay Safe On Your College Campus

old building with the words, "safety is for today" written on it to represent student safety

While all colleges take student safety very seriously campus crimes still happen. Every year college students throughout the country become victims of stalking, sexual assault, robbery, homicide, and other campus crimes. Fortunately, there are things students can do to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.

In karate class, one of my Renshi’s (a Renshi is a 5th-6th degree black belt) recommended to me the book, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I too highly recommend this book to everyone, especially college students. Buy it. Read it. Pass it around to peers, friends, and family. It’s instructive, eye-opening, and empowering. De Becker shows the reader that violent acts can be predictable and not always random. He wants you to trust your instincts. Fear can be a gift because it is telling you something very important.

Student Safety Starts With Knowing Your Campus

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the campus. If you are a new student, this is going to take some time. You’re not going to remember everything from orientation. As you’re moving about campus be present and intentionally take the time to become familiar with campus landmarks and streets so you’re able to navigate your way around without getting lost. Note common pathways, well-lit areas, and emergency phones.

Emergency Phones

Most campuses have emergency call buttons or phones scattered throughout campus for students to utilize in the event of an emergency. Learn where these are located. Typically, they are called “bright blue phones” because they are just that. Blue with a blue light at the top.

blue emergency phone with a blue siren on top on a college campus. In the background there is a car and fencing.

The purpose of the blue phones is to provide easy access to the college police department’s direct line. When a student activates the phone, it connects them to the department’s dispatch center which is available 24hr. The location of the call is automatically recorded, and police response is immediate. If you ever find yourself unsafe or in trouble or you’ve witnessed a campus crime, knowing where to call for help will be critical.

My alma mater, Sacramento State (CSUS) has more than 150 blue light emergency phones placed on and around the campus for student safety. They also have a camera system attached to the phone for added security. I remember seeing them everywhere. I do feel they limited crime and increased campus safety.

Don’t Let Technology Distract You

Most college students are often immersed in their phones, texting, checking emails, on social media, or listening to music. It’s easy to get distracted and become unaware of your surroundings. This can be very dangerous. If you find yourself zoning out. Turn down your music or put your phone away. Lift your head and engage in what is going on around you.

Never Walk Alone After Dark

Always use the buddy system when walking at night. Students who are walking around campus at night are more vulnerable. This is especially true for females. On average, sexual assaults are more likely to occur at night and in the dark.

When I was in graduate school, working on my MBA, all my classes were available only at night. This is because most graduate students work during the day. My graduate schedule was 4 nights a week for a year and a half. I walked to my car in the dark for a year and a half. Therefore, I always used the buddy system and/or had a friend or family member on the phone. I parked in well-lit areas and as close to the class as possible. Several of my peers would request campus escorts, especially during the winter when it was cold and rainy and there weren’t a lot of students mingling about.

“When approached by a stranger while walking on some city street at night, no matter how engaging he might be, you must never lose sight of the context: He is a stranger who approached you.” Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker.

Campus Escort

Most schools offer campus escort services, particularly at night. Call your campus police or safety office and ask if they can escort you to your car or your dorm. The officer will either walk with you or drive you. Don’t be afraid to use campus security, that’s what they’re there for.

Student Safety Begins With Learning To Defend Yourself

I’m a big advocate of self-defense. I believe everyone should take their personal safety seriously and become proactive. If you read the About Me Page you know my parents required me to start karate when I started college at the age of 13. Learning self-defense tactics can increase the odds of fending off an attacker.

two men wearing white karate gi's learning self-defense for student safety

Almost all colleges have a Physical Education (also known as kinesiology) requirement. I recommend taking classes like karate, jiujitsu, taekwondo, or self-defense. Not only are you earning credits and meeting requirements, but you are also gaining practical skills. Of course, the goal is to never have to use your skills. However, having them can be the difference in getting out of a harmful situation.

“So when we wonder why we are victims so often, the answer is clear. It is because we are so good at it.” Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker.

Be Careful Getting Into Your Car

Have your keys ready before you reach your car. Many cars are now equipped with keyless entry, which is a convivence and great for student safety. Be aware of the cars parked around you, and who may be in them or around them. Before you open the car door, look into the backseat. If it’s dark use the flashlight on your phone to illuminate the backseat. Be cautious of people asking for directions, handing out fliers, or trying to get your attention. If someone makes you feel uneasy, get in your car quickly, lock the doors and drive away.

Lock Everything

It’s easy to become comfortable in college for most students it can be their second home. But there are some habits that you must always stick to, like locking everything. Always lock your doors, windows, car, and bike. Locking things up is the easiest way to discourage a thief. If you make it hard for them, they will move on to an easier target.

When It Comes To Student Safety Always Trust Your Instincts

If your gut tells you something isn’t right, trust it. If you have that feeling that something feels wrong, even though you can’t explain it your intuition is trying to tell you something. Don’t hesitate, leave and find an area where there is good light and people. Remember you would rather be safe than sorry.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; It is always in response to something. It always had your best interest at heart.” The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker.


Sensei Side Note:

True story:

One of my female professors told my class a story about safety. She was teaching a night class and her husband was concerned about her walking to her car alone. He had offered to go and walk her to her car after every class. My professor felt that was impractical so she assured her husband she would ask a student in the class to walk with her. My professor explained that a very present and engaging male student stayed after the class to speak with her, after they completed their conversation he offered to walk her to her car. The professor accepted his offer, rationalizing that he seemed to be a nice student and she promised her husband she would ask someone to walk with her. They did this for an entire semester without ever having problems.

The following semester my professor was watching the evening news with her husband and saw a picture of the student who had walked her to her car for the entire semester. He had worked at the local hospital and was convicted of raping several female patients who were in comas. They had identified him because one of the coma patients became pregnant. 

“Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait.” The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker.