The University Record, March 18, 1997

People feel safer on campus than in 1989

Members of the University community feel safer on campus than they did in the late 1980s, according to a 1996 survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the request of the Task Force on Campus Safety and Security.

The survey was conducted by Ronald F. Inglehart, professor of political science and program director for the Center for Political Studies, who notes that "security has been seen as a significant problem here for some time."

"The findings of the new survey reveal that there is still widespread concern about security among the people who live and work here, especially among women," Inglehart says, adding that people feel safer than they did several years ago. "The survey also shows that campus security is, above all, a gender issue."

Following a 1989 survey, the Department of Public Safety took on expanded responsibilities and now has officers who patrol campus and control access to buildings.

An overwhelming majority of members of the University community---87 percent overall---feel that the presence of the police force tends to make the campus a safer place.

According to the current survey, however, 54 percent of the members of the University community are afraid to go alone to certain places on or near campus after dark, "reflecting widespread concern," Inglehart notes. "But it also reflects a significant improvement from the 1989 survey, when 62 percent said that they were afraid to go certain places after dark."

Inglehart says that "the degree to which people feel insecure varies strikingly according to gender." Only 34 percent of the men interviewed said they were afraid to go to certain places after dark. Fully 84 percent of women expressed such fears. One-third of the men feel insecure, while almost six out of seven women feel insecure.

"Attitudes on this topic do not polarize very much according to race or occupation," Inglehart says, "but the difference between the perceptions of men and women are massive. Women are far more concerned with campus security problems than are men, and likelier to support most measures designed to cope with threats to individual safety.

"Members of racial minority groups also tend to be somewhat more concerned with campus security problems and more supportive of measures to cope with them," he notes, "but the differences are not great. One exception is attitudes toward racial harassment, where African Americans show more concern than whites."

The survey also shows that faculty members tend to be the least concerned and that staff tend to be most concerned. "This," Inglehart explains, "is simply a function of the fact that the faculty is predominately male, while the majority of staff are female. If one controls for gender, most of the difference disappears."

Slightly more than one-half of the members of the University community have some concern that they might be subject to physical attack, with staff the most concerned. And while 42 percent fear sexual assault, the number of faculty who are concerned about this rose dramatically, from 16 percent in 1989 to 28 percent. Inglehart says this "seems to reflect the fact that the proportion of women in the faculty rose considerably during these years."

Survey participants also were asked whether they might favor a series of possible actions to improve safety and overall were supportive. These included limiting building access (50 percent), placing more emphasis on safety orientation and training (69 percent), greater and more visible police/security presence (76 percent), more outdoor lighting (91 percent), a more stringent alcohol policy (47 percent), expanding programs to reduce drug abuse (67 percent), expanding programs related to acquaintance rape (91 percent), expanding the safety escort program (89 percent) and providing mini police stations at various locations (79 percent).

Copies of the survey report are available at the Reserve Desk, Hatcher Graduate Library.

Group hopes to submit report in April

The survey on campus safety and security conducted by the Institute for Social Research is one of a number of activities undertaken by the 14-member Task Force on Campus Safety and Security that began work last fall, according to chair Paul C. Boylan, dean of the School of Music and vice provost for the arts.

The Task Force, Boylan notes, "has been taking a thorough and thoughtful look at security issues on campus, including a broader view of the `human climate' as it relates to the work of faculty, staff and students."

He anticipates submitting a report on the group's work by mid to late April, before students leave campus for the summer.

The Task Force divided itself into five sub-groups that have been addressing specific issues. These include:

 

A review of indexed crime on campus along with a comparative study of crime on campuses with comparable settings. This group also is looking at information on the organization, budgets and policies for security at the other campuses.

 

A survey of initiatives undertaken following the 1989 survey related to environmental safety, including such things as lighting, landscaping and emergency telephones.

 

Meetings with faculty, staff and students, supplementing the survey, to determine the perceptions of the University community about safety and security.

 

A review of all agencies on campus concerned with issues of harassment and student/faculty/staff conflict resolution.

 

A review of the Department of Public Safety, including policies and procedures, personnel and budget.

Boylan notes that he has met with subcommittees of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs that deal with civil liberties and the advisory committees to the vice president for university relations and to the chief financial officer. He also has consulted extensively with law Prof. Samuel R. Gross, former chair of the Safety and Security Oversight Committee.