The University of Iowa is ranked as one of the safest institutions in the Big Ten. But that doesnt mean it is always safe for all students, says Maggie Van Oel, director of Residence Services.
The University tries to inform all students continually about safety measures they can take. Residence hall staff, the Department of Public Safety, Womens Resource and Action Center, and the Rape Victims Advocacy Program remind students about safe practices on bulletin boards and in The Daily Iowan. Resident assistants provide students on their floors with information. Safety is featured in the orientation and housing handbooks that students receive. Other tips are on various web sites.
But students must take responsibility for their own safety and their own possessions, Van Oel says.
"The decisions they make can affect not only their safety but that of other students, too," she says. "When students prop open a locked entrance door so their friends can come in late at night, they may endanger an entire residence hall. When a student sees a stranger walking in the halls and doesnt confront him or her, other students may be endangered. When students leave their doors unlocked while they run downtown for a pizza, they shouldnt be surprised if something is missing when they get back."
Think About Insurance
Living in the Midwest has many benefits, but it also brings the challenges of fire, flood, and tornadoes. The Iowa City area has experienced all three in recent years.
Just last winter, a massive fire in Iowa Citys downtown left numerous students without homes or possessions. After the fire was out, it was learned that only four of the 30 affected students had renters insurance. Only a couple more could be covered in part by their parents policies.
That left most of the affected students out in the cold, literally and figuratively, without even the books and materials theyd need for classlet alone clothing.
"I wouldnt be surprised if the percentage of residence hall students who have insurance is as low as the students affected by the downtown fire," Van Oel says. "We have no way of knowing. The University provides no insurance for personal belongings of students living in our halls. Its a personal choice."
The University assumes no liability for loss, damage, or theft of students personal property.
"We always advise students to check their parents insurance to see if they can be covered while theyre in school," Van Oel says. "If not, we hope theyll consider renters insurance."
Precautions to Take
Staying safe includes remembering to take ones student ID and keys along at all times, Van Oel says. "Students can use the Universitys free engraving service to mark their possessions, so if things are stolen and later recovered, they can be returned."
"Safety is as simple as knowing that you can take Cambus, call for SafeRide, or ask SafeWalk escorts to walk with you, rather than walking across campus late at night," she continues.
Parents cannot watch over their students after they come to campus, but they are a major influence on them. Parents can make sure there is insurance coverage for possessions, help to mark bicycles, clothing, and other belongings, and talk over choices that students will have to make that might endanger their health or safety. Parent Times frequently covers safety in its articles, to give parents information to discuss with their students.
"The University walks a fine line in discussing this issue with parents and students," Van Oel says. "Students believe that nothing can happen to them, and their parents sometimes imagine too many things that might happen. If students use common sense and stay away from behaviors that can put them in danger, they should have few problems at Iowa."
Dealing with Alcohol
While many students use common sense when they are sober, alcohol can impede a students judgment. The Universitys Stepping Up Project is committed to minimizing the harmful effects of alcohol consumption.
"We are concerned about the physical, social, and monetary costs of high-risk driving on our student community," says Julie Phye, coordinator of Stepping Up. "There is a great deal of evidence showing that students who drink heavily not only harm themselves but others as well."
One approach the University takes to this problem is to provide night-time activities in recreational facilities on campus, so students have alternatives to spending time in bars. Weeks of Welcome will introduce new students to these opportunities Thursday, Sept. 2, when all recreational and athletic facilities in the Fieldhouse will be open for the popular "Night Games." Non-alcohol tailgates before football games and street dances are other attractions.