U.S. universities employ various safety measures and security mechanisms to provide students a stress-free learning environment and a home away from home.
As a prospective student or parent, it is natural to be anxious about the safety and security issues related to studying in a foreign land, thousands of kilometers away from home. Thus, to provide students a stress-free learning environment, U.S. universities have established several processes and systems responsive to the existing and emergent forms of security threats.
The U.S. higher education system is among the oldest and finest in the world. This essentially means the country’s education institutions have established, improved and evolved their methods of teaching. Combined with quality student services, they offer a world-class learning environment. A campus visit or virtual tour will reveal state-of-the-art facilities, services, infrastructure and safety mechanisms available to students, faculty and staff.
Another unique strength of U.S. higher education institutions is the importance they place on accessibility and safety of differently-abled students. Buildings are equipped with features like ramps to ensure that students with disabilities can easily use campus facilities. Several U.S. universities and colleges also have dedicated centers for students with disabilities to facilitate their educational attainment.
Most higher education institutions in the United States host well-trained campus police, transportation facilities, emergency alarm systems and on-campus housing options. These institutions not only invest time and energy in building and maintaining security systems, but they also work on communicating the inclusiveness of their campuses. In 2016, the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign rose from the U.S. higher education system to welcome prospective international students. It reiterates that the country is a safe, diverse and friendly destination for students.
“My university regularly conducted safety drills on campus to ensure that all students, faculty and staff were aware of the protocol to be followed during emergencies on campus. We also received alerts of all closures and delayed openings of the university campuses due to inclement weather,” says Bhavvna Jolly, an alumna of the University of Maryland.
Key security features on U.S. campuses include the following.
All students are issued identity cards that permit entry into the campus. This also helps restrict unauthorized entry to certain parts. On-campus housing is also managed through resident cards that allow entry only into students’ respective dormitories and apartments.
Most U.S. universities have well-trained campus police for patrolling, traffic management and general law enforcement on campus.
Emergency phone system
U.S. campuses usually have blue light emergency telephone systems that are linked to the campus police department. Through this system, the administration ensures students receive immediate help when in danger. Blue light emergency phones are located at prominent locations across campuses and are operational round-the-clock.
Shuttle service and escort system
U.S. colleges and universities run shuttles or minibuses throughout their campuses. Students may use these services to safely travel from one part of a campus to another. Universities also offer escort services for students to have an authorized member of the security staff accompany them to and from any location on campus at night.
Student health services
Student health service centers offer quality and timely healthcare to all students. All international students are expected to purchase medical insurance from private players or avail university-based insurance. In case of need, students can access facilities like doctors or nurses on-call.
U.S. universities have teams of counselors and psychologists adept at providing culturally-sensitive therapy to students. This ensures that students receive emergency and long-term psycho-social support required for their personal and academic development.
Another important resource for students is the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool, offered by the U.S. Department of Education, which allows them to research crimes reported on U.S. campuses. Prospective students may use it to know the crime statistics for their shortlisted colleges or universities by logging on to https://ope.ed.gov/campussafety.
While colleges and universities are committed to providing a conducive learning environment, the onus of safety also lies with the students. Certain safety and self-care rules are universal, whether they are living in New Delhi or New York. Students must be active during the orientation week and understand the safety facilities on campus in order to avail these services if and when required. Campus police often run programs on self-defense, peer-to-peer advising and personal safety to help students identify and report any threat to personal security, including sexual violence. Being aware of these services, seeking help when required and reporting crime when it takes place are ways that students can contribute toward creating an environment that caters to the learning, health and safety of all stakeholders.
Anubhooti Arora is a Cultural Affairs Specialist-Education at U.S. Embassy New Delhi.