Your son was one of 75 in his graduating class in a small Iowa town where people frequently don’t lock their home or car doors. You’re concerned about whether he’ll be safe on a large university campus in a metropolitan area of almost 90,000 people.
Your daughter was one of 900 graduates from a suburban Chicago high school. You’re concerned that she’ll feel that Iowa is so safe that she doesn’t need be careful to protect herself.
Parents’ primary concern is the safety of their students. Iowa has a reputation as a safe place to be. Ironically, that may be why students and their belongings sometimes are not as safe as they think. So residence hall officials and numerous offices on campus give students one simple bit of advice:
The way to stay safe and keep your belongings secure is to be smart, lock your student room door, and be aware of what’s going on around you.
Students are partners with the University in protecting their own safety, and they have a lot of help available. One of the resources is the Handbook for New Students, distributed at Orientation, which lists offices or areas of the University that are dedicated to safety. Parents also can find good information on University web sites, including a Crime Prevention Newsletter on the Department of Public Safety web site (www.uiowa.edu/~pubsfty).
The University is patrolled by sworn, certified police officers in Public Safety who protect campus. They are graduates of the Iowa State Police Academy, with the same powers as other police in the community. One unit also has specialized training in helping victims of sexual assault.
In case of an emergency, Blue Cap telephones around campus give students immediate access to the Public Safety officers. If students aren’t comfortable walking home alone at night, SafeWalk will send two students to walk with them. Cambus runs frequently day and night, for both convenience and safety.
Even with these and other resources, students need to take precautions. For example, Brad Allison, crime prevention officer for the Department of Public Safety, points out that theft is the No. 1 reported crime on the Iowa campus—especially bicycles, sound systems, and computers.
“Important belongings can be registerd on Project ID [www.uiowa.edu/~pubsfty/projectid.htm],” Allison says. “That way, we can trace serial numbers and ownership to the residence hall address. When students arrive on campus, we give them stickers to put on registered items.”
Students should not leave backpacks unattended in libraries, athletic facilities, or the Iowa Memorial Union, he adds.
Advance planning also can help prepare a student to protect against assault, Allison says. He suggests Public Safety’s 12-hour free course called Rape Aggression Defense Training.
“It covers risk-reduction techniques and basic self-defense,” he says. “At the end, an instructor wears heavy padding so students can practice defense techniques at full force.”
Thomas Baker, associate counsel in the Office of the Vice President for Student Services, suggests that parents can help students be safe by being proactive before the move to campus.
“I’d suggest active parental advice when a student is packing,” he says. “Residence Services distributes lists of things that students may not bring into a residence hall. Parents need to make sure that none of those things is packed.”
In general, Baker adds, if there’s any doubt, it’s wise to leave many items at home when you first come to campus.
“Do you really want a bike, or would you rather take Cambus wherever you need to go?” he says. “Especially in the winter, most students prefer to ride. Err on the side of not bringing stuff. Four weeks into the semester, you can go home and bring it back with you, if you decide it’s necessary.”
Baker tells parents to be aware that their sons and daughters will be undergoing immense change, starting when they come to Orientation and continuing through the college experience.
“In terms of maturation and student development, college years can be viewed like dog years—that’s how much they learn and change in a short time. Maintain communication, and keep reminding them about safety.”
By Anne Tanner