One of the most valuable assets of St. Mary’s College is our beautiful, open campus. As one walks the path winding its way around elegant buildings, from thick forests to the sparkling waterfront, it wouldn’t be surprising to have the sense that we live and study in a world apart.
Many students have remarked to me with pride that this is a safe campus, where one can leave doors open or a laptop unattended in the Library or the Great Room and find it hours later in the same place. Some talk about a “St. Mary’s bubble,” a protected space where we can all be carefree—or careless.
In recent weeks, there have been concerns about whether that bubble has been pierced. There have been reports of assaults on some of our students by off campus intruders, and questions about how proactive our Public Safety officers have been in addressing the reports. Community members express alarm at the specter of binge drinking, especially during campus wide events like Hawktoberfest and Hallowgreens. Still others are worried that, as a result of our zeal to protect ourselves from “others” who may do us harm, they themselves may be caught up in the coils of law enforcement because they “match the description.”
Perhaps our campus doesn’t reside under a worry-proof bubble, but neither are we defenseless or helpless. The College offers a variety of resources to ensure your safety. Students participating in the First Responder Network, Peer Health Counseling, SafeRide receive extensive training to provide assistance, as do RA’s and RHC’s. In addition, the Green Dot program is a grass-roots movement designed to prevent sexual abuse and violence through the empowerment of bystanders. Student Affairs staff are actively involved in providing services, like our On Call Professionals, and in developing programming, such as risk assessment training for our student leaders. Complementary to all these efforts has been our Public Safety department, which strives to provide security for the campus community while staying true to St. Mary’s values.
This array of resources, of course, cannot guarantee freedom from risk on its own. Maintaining a safe campus also depends on the actions we take—or don’t take. I’m reminded of a recurring scene in Hill Street Blues, a gritty police drama from the eighties. The gruff duty sergeant would go over active cases confronting the officers of the Hill Street precinct. Before dismissing them, the sergeant would admonish them, ”Let’s be careful out there.” It’s good advice.
There are several ways you can assist in protecting your own safety:
Be informed. There is a great deal of valuable information on College websites, including Public Safety, Green Dot and others. College staff, including the Dean, encourage you to speak with us directly to raise questions and to get answers.
Be engaged. Join the Green Dot initiative and learn about programs that can empower us to prevent violence, not merely survive it. Learn more about the Public Safety Advisory Group being established by Director Sean Tallarico and Student Trustee Michael Kilius. In addition the SGA and Dean’s Advisory Council are taking special interest in this issue; contact your Senator or Council member.
Be alert, and look out for each other. Sharp eyes on campus and the willingness to bear witness has led to the apprehension of the suspected intruders. During Hallowgreens, a number of students made extraordinary efforts to protect underage classmates from making risky choices. In doing so, they exemplified some of the most important tenets of the St. Mary’s Way.
Be thoughtful. Acting responsibly reduces risk. That is, being mindful of the possible consequences of your actions will reduce the potential for danger. I realize that this concept runs against the oft repeated mantra of “work hard, play hard.” I would rather say “work hard, play smart,” remembering that, just as the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined risk is not worth taking.
Be careful out there. I don’t mean by this that you should wrap yourself in another bubble, this time of paranoia and mistrust. St. Mary’s College remains a remarkably safe place in which to work, live and study, and if we follow the suggestions above, it will become safer still.