On Cultivating a Safe Campus Environment

Alexandra Fosbury ’21, Life & Style Editor

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A little over a year ago I wrote my first opinion for The Dickinsonian about the culture shock I faced moving from San Francisco to Carlisle. Within a few days of moving onto campus, I had already seen dozens of cars and shops sporting a Confederate flag. Today that is something that still shocks and angers me, but I also have a new concern about our small town: safety. 

All of my friends and I, specifically my girlfriends, have made it a rule that we are not allowed to walk around town alone at night, ever. While, unfortunately, this isn’t a new development for female students on a college campus, we are now equally as concerned with male students as we are with male Carlisle residents. On any given weekend night, I could get catcalled a handful of times by strangers in oversized trucks. Even though I’m not unfamiliar with getting catcalled, in Carlisle it is a constant fear, especially when the catcalls are more aggressive.

Anytime I am walking around at night, I make sure to walk a little bit faster and to never make eye contact with another car or person. Unfortunately, you don’t need to be making eye contact with anyone for them to holler at you out of the window of their pickup truck or whisper something inappropriate as they pass you on the street. I would hate to accept this as the reality for women on a college campus, but the minute I pass either the Kline on one end of campus or Denny on the other, I immediately become more cautious. 

Every Thursday I walk to Mooreland Elementary School to volunteer as a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters and nearly every Thursday I will have older men pass by me in their cars, stick their heads out of their windows (while they are still driving), look back at me and stare. I immediately feel a wave a panic because I fear that they may reverse their car back, try to yell something at me or even follow me. This has become a routine on early Thursday afternoons. 

When I chose this school, I honestly did not remember what the surrounding town was like, but I assumed it would be cute, quaint and a lot more conservative than I was used to. While Carlisle is a town that has its good restaurants and adorable boutiques and thrift stores, it is also a town that has severe drug and crime issues and residents that actively perpetuate our patriarchal society. 

The other night I spent nearly 20 minutes speaking to two employees at the Taqueria who have lived in Carlisle their whole lives. They claimed that no more than five years ago Carlisle had tons of small-town charm and kids could run freely and safely throughout the town but that today even they wouldn’t dare walk alone any later than dinnertime. Now, they also warn students never to walk outside alone and even try to keep tabs on anyone that enters or exists their restaurant, especially young women during the weekends. While it is nice to know that there are people in town who don’t condone other residents’ actions, it is also disheartening to hear from Carlisle natives their own disappointments and fears. 

In light of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the Supreme Court, I have been especially upset and frustrated with how women are viewed as secondary to men, as objects that a man can yell inappropriate things at, as if men have a right to tell a woman she has a great ass and as if that would make her feel validated rather than violated. Of course, I cannot speak for all women, and there are thousands of women that are excited about Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court who may also believe that catcalling is a form of flattery and no only means no when you state it explicitly. I think that it may be difficult to find a solution to the catcalling and general safety issue because we unfortunately cannot control what a man chooses to say as he speeds down High Street; but if we continue to push education on campus about women’s health and safety and ensure that positions like the Title IX Coordinator remain filled by highly qualified individuals, then we can at least create an environment that makes students feel as safe as possible on campus.  

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