Shedding Light on Safety at UNH

Liana Teixeira

The safety and well-being of students is a main priority at the University of New Haven.  With UNH being a largely approachable campus, it is vital that proper law enforcement officers are on duty and stationed within the university.  The UNH Campus Police possesses such facilities and patrols the campus regularly.  Emergency blue boxes are also accessible to students in numerous locations.  However, while student safety remains of pivotal importance on any campus, college students may be exposed to threatening situations without even realizing it.

Students walking alone at night are at a potentially higher risk for being followed, robbed, or attacked, especially in deserted areas of campus.  Furthermore, students should be aware of their surroundings in and out of the classroom.  Unwanted visitors may see an open classroom door as an easy opportunity, leaving the student at risk and very unprotected if working alone.  Even propping a main door open for a short period of time leaves a window of opportunity for dangerous individuals to enter.

An incident on the University of Connecticut-Storrs campus on Wednesday night in which a man was robbed at gunpoint while working in the basement of a classroom building provides a reminder to students that crime is possible, even in a seemingly secure facility.  UCONN police are investigating the robbery, insisting that the doors to the academic building are usually locked at night and that the suspect may have been hiding in the building prior to its locking.

“The buddy system is always a good idea: travel in groups, never alone,” said a police officer/R.A.D instructor when asked about ways to stay safe on the UNH campus.  “In the past couple of years, we have had some robberies involving UNH students on campus as well as in areas immediately surrounding campus,” the officer continued, “but it does not happen very often.”  Indeed, UNH has been extremely lucky in its general avoidance of on-campus crime.

But while student awareness greatly deters crime potential, the maintenance and improvement of campus resources also plays an important role in securing the safety of students.  One such incident involving the Kaplan parking lot occurred at the beginning of fall semester 2011.  The summer construction project in Kaplan added a much-needed pedestrian walkway in the center of the lot, making it easier for cars to notice students walking to class.  It was detected, however, that the light illuminating the center of Kaplan was out, creating a darkened area near a popular walkway for students.

If not repaired, students are left at greater risk when walking in Kaplan, particularly commuter students who stay late on campus and must walk to their cars. “I couldn’t believe how dark Kaplan lot looked. It was lit around the perimeter but in the center, where the majority of the cars are parked, it was very, very dark,” commuter Melissa Norman said. “It was very hard to see cars in the lot, let alone students in the walk ways. Heaven forbid there was a non-student lurking in the parking lot.”  The Kaplan light has since been fixed by maintenance; additional resources such as reflectors or extra blue boxes could also improve safety efforts in the Kaplan lot area.  “I don’t think that lot is illuminated enough,” said a student advocating for campus safety.  “And we need more blue boxes.”

Although suggestions can be made toward further safety measures on campus, UNH remains readily prepared to enforce security precautions and assist students when needed.  UNH police are extremely successful at protecting our campus, resulting in the low crime rate.  However, there is always room for improvement. If something is broken, student activism is a quick way to get something prepared fast; it is important to notify facilities and UNH police if a problem needs fixing.  “Walking to some of the outer facilities does tend to make me a little nervous, but I never felt like my safety on campus was compromised,” Norman added.

The university also promotes student safety through the offerings of Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) classes for women to teach self-defense concepts and techniques against assault; lessons on awareness, risk reduction, and avoidance are promoted through lectures and hands-on defense training.

Students are also encouraged to not be afraid to use the blue boxes if they believe they are truly in danger.  “Trust your instincts,” said the officer, “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to yourself.  Do not dismiss what you’re feeling…Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.”  If students see anything unusual, contact UNH police via the blue boxes or the emergency line.

The UNH Campus Police emergency line is (203) 932-7070; routine (nonemergency) calls to UNH Campus Police may be placed at (203) 932-7014.