Creating a Safe Campus Culture
It’s August! That means college students are saying goodbye to summer and hello to the start of a new school year. This time is all about reconnecting with your chapter members and enjoying your “syllabus week” with (hopefully) no homework. Everyone is cheerful and looking polished for fall recruitment. When I was on campus, the start of each new semester gave me this newfound sense of ownership and excitement.
This time is for rekindling friendships, relationships, and the “it’s complicated” acquaintanceships. However, did you know this time is also known as the Red Zone? The Red Zone is a period of six weeks that experts believe is the most dangerous time for sexual assault on campus. This alarming data should not be the fate for college students. It is my hope that through preparation, safe surroundings, and setting high expectations you will develop a sense of safety and accountability within your campus culture.
How to create a campus culture of safety:
1. Be Prepared at All Events:
- At large events, hire security. If you have budget constraints, alert your campus security that you plan to hold an event, and they will likely assign an officer to patrol and check-in as needed. In my experience, they appreciate a heads up for large events on campus.
- Require an I.D. for admission to events. Do not let random guests in that are not on a guest list. If it is open to the public, ask them to sign-in. If needed, use liability waivers. It may be a good idea to also have a sign-out sheet and keep track of timing and levels of occupancy.
- Ensure you are following all laws and campus rules regarding alcohol consumption. Prepare some way to track this through wristbands, stamps, etc.
- Hiring a private security firm and a private bartender can help mitigate the risk and liability.
2. Build Safe Surroundings:
- Every event should have designated risk management leaders monitoring your guests’ behavior. Make sure your members are trained and know to listen to your risk management team.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, just leave. Your gut is always right. A golden excuse that can buy you time is “I have to go to the bathroom.” Collect your thoughts and plan your safe exit.
- Look out for one another. One misconception about fraternities and sororities is that they are “unsafe.” I believe it is quite the contrary. Good, healthy strong chapters are the ones who create safe environments for their members. Look out for one another, even if you don’t wear the same letters. Remember, you are a part of a larger community.
3. Create a Safe Space for Members:
- A benefit of fraternities and sororities is they provide a safe space on campus for their members. As a chapter, you must uphold this and support your members in times of hardship. Listen to and trust those who share their story. Do not victim blame. Do not force them into deciding if and when to seek additional services. Only that individual knows what is truly best for them. Listen and offer support when needed.
- Do not be afraid to share your story. Again, strong healthy chapters are those who create a safe environment for their members. Allow yourself and your members to be vulnerable in times of adversity. Your chapter members serve as a network to fall back on, so allow yourself to share your story, so that others can do the same. Chapters that shame, blame, or denounce members for sharing their story are not upholding the morals and values of the fraternity/sorority community. Never feel ashamed for the scars you bare. Set high expectations that your chapter must create a safe space.
Fraternity and sorority leaders are rooting for you. We want you to have fun and seek new adventures in college. However, we also want to make sure you do that in a safe manner. Any activity or behavior that creates an unsafe environment should never be a part of your college experience. Every student deserves respect. As members of fraternities and sororities, we are leaders on campus. Therefore, we have an obligation to set high expectations for our campus culture. Change is not made from praising the good. Change comes from acknowledging areas of opportunity and finding ways to improve. Through preparation, safe environments, and setting high expectations we can establish a safe campus culture for all students.
Monica Waldau is a recent dual business graduate in marketing and management at California State University, Long Beach. While in college, Monica was heavily involved with student government, community service, an honors society, and fraternity/sorority life. Monica quickly established herself as an ambitious, compassionate leader among the fraternity/sorority community. Monica served on the Panhellenic Council for 3 terms, eventually serving as Panhellenic President. She has been active in her community on and off campus, being recognized as Greek Woman of the Year, Miss Long Beach, and Dean’s Medalist – Outstanding Business Graduate. Furthermore, Monica’s work took her all the way to Capitol Hill. She has lobbied Congress members to protect and enhance the fraternity/sorority experience. If interested in booking Monica Waldau as a speaker, facilitator, or guest, please email Monica.Waldau@gmail.com.