Be Proactive and Reactive: Colleges Need to Actually Enforce Their Housing Policies
At the start of every new school year college students look forward to reuniting with friends, kicking off a new football season (GO BUCKS!), and enjoying a nice walk on the quad (or the oval in Ohio State’s case). But what’s not so exciting about returning to campus is the public safety alerts.
From local robberies to missing persons alerts, public safety notices can make students very worried about how safe their educational institutions are. Nonetheless, they are important so every student can be aware of what areas are safe; therefore, students deal with the texts and e-mails without much objection.
One of the most frequent alerts on college campuses are reports of sexual assaults. More than 40% of sexual assaults at universities happen when large amounts of students arrive on campus in September and October.
Traditionally, all first-year students are required to live in their college’s dormitories for their first year so that they become more familiar with the university and have more resources available to them. The ultimate goal of universities’ first-year living rule is to create a safe haven for students — but now dormitories seem to be more of a trap than a safe place.
On average, college students pay an increasing rate of $9,804 every year to live in dormitories in addition to their tuition costs. One way that universities try to help students become more familiar with their campuses is to assign them a Resident Advisor (RA).
Usually every floor in a dormitory has an assigned RA to handle roommate disputes, inform students of fun events happening in their building, and to ensure that they have at least one person they can call in an event of confusion or immediate danger. There is also a Hall Director appointed to every dormitory to handle serious situations and maintain peace and order in their building.
With such an extensive amount of authorities on campus, there is no justifiable reason why 81% of reported campus rapes happen in university-owned dormitories.
All universities have some form of housing policies for their residents to abide by that include regulation of guests. Usually students have family and friends sleep in their dorms at some point time during the academic year to catch up on life or for a good old-fashioned sleepover with friends. But it seems that despite university guest policies, Hall Directors and Resident Advisors are not implementing them.
Due to limited single rooms or by choice, many students spend their first year of college with one or more roommates. Some roommates become close friends, others don’t. Every person has a different level of comfort around people in their personal space (including their roommate’s guests).
A common residential policy is that to have overnight guests, all roommates must give their consent in all aspects or there can be no guests at all. But as a college student myself, I have seen how young adults have their own agenda and sometimes ditch the rules when they see fit, despite making others uncomfortable.
More often than not, RAs and Hall Directors do not check these residents and other students are left feeling uncomfortable. I can’t help but believe that this loose policy enforcement plays a part in the abundant amounts of rapes, reported and unreported, on college campuses. It is not enough to promote rules with posters. You have to enforce them with actions by keeping better track of who is coming in and out of dormitories and following university laws.
Hall Directors and Resident Advisors can’t stop every sexual assault. But I do believe they can be doing much more. I don’t believe students need to be treated as children, but when people are being assaulted so frequently on common ground, the community needs to sacrifice some freedoms for the greater good.
From the frequent unprosecuted rapists, it is pretty obvious that many University Administrators do not take rape cases as seriously as they should. Patting rapists on the back with a consequence is not enough to create a safe space.
It is time that colleges are proactive and reactive. Writing policies that are intended to prevent campus rape means nothing when your staff does nothing to enforce them. It’s time that College Administrators, Hall Directors, and Resident Advisors do the work that they are paid to do so that their students can pursue an education in a safe environment, as they rightfully deserve.If you have dealt with sexual assault, on or off of a college campus, and are seeking help, please click here.
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