How Students Want Colleges to Manage Campus Safety and Security (infographic)

Policies at the federal, state, and institutional levels to protect free speech, student safety, and victims of assault are preferred by students more than efforts to protect against COVID-19 on campus. This is what reveals the latest Student Voice survey of Inside higher education and College Pulse and presented by Kaplan.

The end-of-June survey of 2,035 current students from 113 colleges and universities asked for student opinions on policies that have an impact (or would impact) on students, but which are developed by lawmakers or lawmakers. higher education leaders.

Support for freedom of expression

Almost two-thirds of students – including a roughly equal number of Democrats and Republicans – support legislation that would give universities less public funding if they prohibit students from freely expressing their views on campus.

But how solid is the idea? “It appears that funding cuts are not an effective strategy because they will not necessarily have the consequences that lawmakers want,” says Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill, director of the Campus Free Expression Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Such an approach is more symbolic, since the institutions could absorb cuts in any budget area. From his perspective, “college leaders are very receptive to this issue, seeking ways to foster an environment of open expression on campuses” – in part because they know “that it is important to be seen doing a great job of fostering an open environment. “

Organized protests, however, can be a source of contention. Elected officials in many states are working on legislation that would make anyone convicted of a criminal offense related to a demonstration, demonstration or rally ineligible for loans and scholarships. Only 9 percent of Student Voice respondents strongly agree with this concept, and an additional 11 percent somewhat agree.

This type of legislation is “really unfortunate,” says Anna Sassaman, who is majoring in political science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. “We’re at an age where some people want to be a part of these things and don’t always think about the consequences. “

While Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to disagree with tying financial aid eligibility to protest activity, UC Berkeley student Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza finds it confusing . “In reality, students on all sides will have some form of protest at some point,” said Zaragoza, the student regent appointed to the board of regents at the University of California.

But Mark Huelsman, a policy researcher at Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, says these types of laws are “almost certain to target those who speak out against racial injustice.”

Only 28% of students surveyed feel extremely or very comfortable sharing their opinions on potentially sensitive topics on campus.

Sassaman, who recently did an internship in a state senator’s office, would consider himself uncomfortable (an answer chosen by 17% of those polled). “I try to stay fairly neutral on things. I don’t want to have specific positions that might hurt me in the future.

Pfeffer Merrill says the comfort level results are in line with other surveys. “It is very difficult in our polarized society to talk about difficult topics. And for students, it is difficult to learn how to do these things. This underscores the importance for universities of teaching the essential civic skills of hearing and speaking constructively with those whose perspectives may be different from one’s own.

Safety and security preferences

Eight in 10 respondents to the Student Voice survey say they feel very (37%) or somewhat (43%) safe on campus. When students don’t feel completely safe, higher education institutions may have a retention issue, as those students are potentially more likely to not complete their education, Huelsman explains.

Students were asked which entities currently provide safety and security on campus, and which entities should provide these services. Seven in ten say campus police are responsible for safety and security, and about an equal number think it’s the right decision.

About one in five students say volunteer mediators or other mental health professionals are part of their institution’s safety and security teams, but almost a third would like them to do so. This percentage increases to 42 percent among students who feel somewhat or very unsafe on campus. Mediators are also a particularly attractive option for students who say they follow the news very closely (27% of the sample).

While the students surveyed did not have major differences of opinion when filtered by race, students of color are generally the most invested in decisions related to campus safety. A current conversation of the UC system is whether it is possible for community colleges to have their own security forces, Zaragoza explains, adding that relying on local police forces can be a bad idea in a city like Los Angeles, where distrust of the police is high among some groups. .

And when campus police uniforms popped up, with the idea of ​​making them more casual so students feel less threatened, it didn’t fly with a lot of students. “The minute you asked the students who were in danger, for the most part, they immediately said, ‘No, that’s a horrible idea. What if random people attacked me and I couldn’t defend myself? ‘ “, she says.

Another safety-related topic in the investigation concerned Federal Title IX guidelines. Under current guidelines, colleges can decide for themselves whether reported incidents of sexual assault that have occurred off campus should be investigated by the institution. Three quarters of students agree that universities should investigating off-campus allegations, 12 percent say they shouldn’t and an additional 15 percent aren’t sure.

Sassaman, whose response would have been in line with the majority, notes that “in codes of conduct, we are responsible for our actions on and off campus.”

Latinx students are by far the most likely racial group to agree that off-campus incidents should be investigated by colleges (84%, compared to 71% to 74% of White, Black or Asian students) .

University athletes, on the other hand, are many less likely to think that off-campus driving should be investigated by universities. Less than half (46%) think they should, compared to 67% of students who are not athletes. Filtered by geography, students from outside the United States are the group least likely to believe internal investigations are warranted (60%).

The survey also asked students what COVID-19 security measures they want or don’t want to put in place in the fall – with responses indicating “support broad enough to return to some sense of normalcy,” summarizes Huelsman. “Actions that disrupt an on-campus or in-person experience the most get less support. “

Institutional security measures such as increased cleaning and disinfection procedures and free COVID testing on campus were much more often desired than physical distancing indoors or wearing a mask, for example.

Community college students (250 in the survey sample) were much more likely than four-year college and university students to want blended learning and believe in avoiding large crowds and events.

Zaragoza speculates that this last piece could simply be due to the fact that community colleges don’t have so many big events. “In Berkeley, I miss petting llamas during finals week and having big silent disco events,” she says. “We have so many other random events happening.”

In terms of understanding the broader perspective of students so that leaders can make informed decisions, Zaragoza advocates in-person community listening sessions. “There is a lot of non-communication on our campuses, even between faculty and students,” she says. “If we just created more organic spaces for administrators and faculty to talk to students, we could have campuses that better integrate what students want. It is so important to have open spaces for the students to express themselves.

Scroll down for all the highlights from the Student Voice survey.

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