Students Worry About Campus Safety After Dark

Nadia Shahab Diaz ’21, Staff Writer

Students have raised concerns regarding safety on campus, with most of the concern revolved around students feeling insecure on campus after dark, and the efficacy of both the safety shuttle system and the campus blue light network. 

Although she felt safe on campus during the day when walking to class, Carrie Becher ’22 said that she did not feel as safe on weekend nights. She believed that, by closing the Waidner-Spahr Library earlier on the weekends, the college is almost encouraging a drinking culture. Becher wished that the library was kept open longer on Friday and Saturday nights so that “people who have work or do not like to drink are able to have a safe place to do activities without having to be in their dorms,” she said.

While Evan Bechtel ’23 felt very safe on campus, he admitted that his identity as a straight, white male contributed to his sense of security, as well as the familiarity of Carlisle being his hometown. In comparison, Katrina Faulker ’23, despite also feeling generally safe on campus, expressed hesitation over walking alone through campus at night; her general rule of thumb was to have a friend accompany her when walking in the dark.

There were also thoughts on improvements that could be made to the safety shuttle system. Bridget Williams ’21 said that “it’s important that the safety shuttle’s definitely running at late hours” and noted that that has been an occasional problem, particularly on the weekends. Becher felt as if the safety shuttle “doesn’t do practically anything to make me feel safer at night (except in going to Walmart).”

Students also expressed concern over the efficacy of the Blue Light system. According to the Dickinson College Public Safety Handbook, there are “emergency ‘blue light phones’ located strategically throughout campus. These blue light phones connect directly to the DPS [Department of Public Safety] communication center.” However, Maya Cromwell ’20 expressed her concerns that there are not enough blue lights on campus. “Aren’t you supposed to say that from wherever you stand, you should be able to see one […] but you can’t from just anywhere you are.” Becher voiced a similar sentiment and said that blue lights need to be improved because “there’s very few of them and they’re also pretty intimidating to use.”

Chief of Public Safety Dee Danser denied allegations that the college is intending to remove the blue lights on campus. In an email, Danser explained that while the system does remain active, “the reality is the phones are rarely used because of students’ access to cell phones.” Danser added that the DPS has not received “an emergency call on a blue light phone for several years.”

Becher also suggested that “there should be a way to call a Safety Shuttle of DPS to come get you wherever you are if you feel unsafe.” Cailey Cummins ’20 had a similar critique, thinking it “a shame that students can no longer call the Safety Shuttle to come pick them up. Making students wait for a shuttle late at night at various points on campus and in town doesn’t seem like the safest policy.” Even though Cummins recognized that there were issues with the previous system, she does not believe that the new system is the best one.

Bechtel recounted her own experiences with public safety, where she claimed that DPS told her multiple times that they could not pick her up. “That, I believe, is failing their duty in ‘protecting us’ if they won’t come when we need them to. Hire more people if manpower’s an issue,” she said.

Other students, while they generally felt safe at Dickinson, did not feel as strong a sense of security when it came to outside of campus grounds. Tao Xu ’21 had concerns regarding the general safety of Carlisle. “[W]e have a large population of minority and international students on this campus, I do feel like a respect on diversity from outside of the campus is also a very important factor to consider for security,” Xu said.  Meanwhile, Williams ’21 mentioned that “it’s very easy for students to get caught up in the fact that we’re in Central Pennsylvania, not in a big city” and said that it may cause students to “get a little too comfortable, which poses a problem.”

Sayahn Mudd ’21 believed that, in order to increase the feeling of security among students on campus, a better relationship with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) is necessary. “In general, we just need to have a tighter sense of community… the relationship between students and DPS is kind of strained, like people don’t quite trust DPS at some points. They don’t want to call DPS for things that they really should call [them] for, you know: a kid getting too drunk, or you need to take someone to the hospital… something like that.” He thought that the conversation of campus safety was tied with repairing the relationship between students and DPS.

These sentiments come amidst a general decrease in reported crime rates on campus. Reported instances of alcohol and drug incidents referred for conduct have decreased roughly 50 percent from 2016 to 2018. However, rates of stalking have remained unchanged, and instances of rape more than doubled over the same time period, according to the 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which is prepared by DPS.