Campus Violence: Improving Safety in a University Setting
- Tammy J. Allen (University of Central Missouri) | Linda G. Lengfellner (University of Central Missouri)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- February 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 28 - 32
- 2016. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 58 since 2007
- Show more detail
- Fatalities and injuries from violent crimes are increasing on university campuses.
- One prime objective is to develop a university campus as a safe workplace, without compromising the confidentiality of students’ private information.
- University faculty and staff can use proactive and reactive techniques to develop an effective response strategy.
Who would think that one unstable student coming to class late would change a personal definition of what safety entails in a college classroom setting? It was a Tuesday afternoon. Several students were absent, like any other day of the week. About 30 minutes into the class, one of those absent students abruptly entered the room. This student was immediately disruptive. No one knew whether the student was armed or what was causing the behavior. Suddenly, the room changed from an active learning classroom to a stressful, uncertain and apprehensive environment. Despite repeated efforts of the professor and other students to remain focused on the day’s topic, the student continued to cause commotion, and attempts to intervene only escalated the behavior. Ultimately, class was dismissed and the authorities were contacted.
In today’s world, employees in workplaces and students in classrooms have a higher potential to be compromised due to mind-altering substances. Drugs and alcohol affect individuals differently. Some people may be disruptive and threatening, others may be incoherent and unaware of their surroundings. In all cases, compromised individuals may be a danger to themselves and others.
Many corporations have a zero-tolerance policy and strive to operate drug-free workplaces. Many conduct drug screening as part of preemployment protocols and operate mandatory random drug-screening programs. In these environments, an employee who is observed in a compromised state, tests positive when tested for cause (e.g., erratic behavior), or tests positive for an illicit drug or for a prescription drug for which s/he has no prescription may be placed into a rehabilitation program. Following completion, this employee must receive outpatient treatment/counseling and be drug tested regularly; to remain employed, all future tests must be negative.
Comparing a drug-free workplace to a college campus requires some adjustments. The controls common in industry, such as background checks on potential employees, security checkpoints, fences or locked doors, do not exist in the university environment. Campuses are open to passersby, and staff members are limited with respect to questions they may ask students, who are the customers in a university setting.
In addition, regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA; DHHS, 1996) protect the confidentiality and security of students’ healthcare information. Administration and faculty are not allowed to know whether a student has a current or previous issue with drug abuse, nor can they know any information related to a student’s criminal background or other issues that could manifest in the classroom and create an at-risk situation for other students, faculty and staff.
Substance Abuse Facts
Drug use is highest among people in their late teens and 20s—college-age students (NIH, 2014). In 2012, 23.9% of 18- to 20-year-olds reported using an illicit drug in the past month. More than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana; the next most common choice is prescription pain relievers, followed by inhalants (NIH, 2014).
Binge and heavy drinking is an all-too-common problem on many college campuses. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion. In 2012, 30.4% of males and 16.0% of females age 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, while 9.9% of males and 3.4% of females reported heavy alcohol use or binge drinking on at least 5 separate days in the past month. In 2012, 17.7 million Americans (6.8% of the population) were dependent on alcohol or had problems related to their alcohol use (NIH, 2014).
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