Despite being ahead on safety, still areas for students to improve

With all of the recent incidents that have occurred this semester, The Kent Stater looked into how much of an importance safety is for students in the dorms.

“Security and safety always has been a priority here at the university,” said Lt. Joe Hendry of Kent State Police Department. “I started school here 30 years ago, and it was a priority then. KSU (has) been ahead of the curve, as the security aide program is one the things that we were one of the first places in the country to have.”

There are many resources that are available to students on campus, including fire safety inspections, rounds from security and escort programs, said Jill Church, director of residence services.

Going even further, the university and KSUPD take additional methods to ensure resident safety.

“With Flash ALERTS and PA systems and things like that, I am traveling nationally, and I see a lot of universities just catching up to things that we have been doing here for years,” Hendry said. “It was not that we were smarter than everyone else, but … things we did 40 years ago helped carry along and keep us up-to-date, make us aware and look into the future.”

Other than these alerts, Hendry said that team officer training is just as important as notifying the students of any threatening situation. 

“We are constantly in training mode anyway,” Hendry said. “We conduct training here at least once a month for one thing or another. I think we have a pretty good mix, as we are not over-emphasizing physical structures of security, cameras and doors as the only thing we are using to protect people. That, along with training, should always be married up, and I think we do a very good job of that here.” 

In addition, about two years ago, the police department conducted a mock drill inside of Olson Hall to help simulate real life reactions in the event of a threat for both law enforcement and civilians in buildings other than classrooms.

“We had students come and they portrayed victims, people that were not injured and people that were locked in rooms,” Hendry said. “The officers actually went in, and we ran a full scale exercise with the administration that would be arriving at the scene. The fire department was there, and everyone ran in conjunction with each other. It was actually probably one of the first major drills that we did here as far as training people what to do.”

Being prepared is a good step, but many times, something as simple as letting a stranger into a building can pose a threat.

“I see students all the time holding doors open to let people in without knowing if they live in the building or not,” said Alec Hawken, a sophomore exercise physiology major. “(I think it’s necessary for) students to be better with not allowing guests in the building without an escort.”

Hawken’s points are important to the university, and there are repercussions for students that fail to follow the rules.

“Guests must be escorted,” Church said. “Warnings for students who violated policies outlined in the Hallways Handbook (can be issued), and department response to these warnings range from a conversation to a referral to the Office of Student Conduct and many things in between.”

Hendry echoed similar comments saying by having doors to residence halls lock, it is something that is a huge security measure. He said that trying to get people aware of not letting strangers draft in behind or holding doors for unknown people may seem little but, in perspective, is very important.

“What makes me feel safe in the dorm is the security guards that walk through every night to make sure everything is OK,” said Madeleine Knebusch, a sophomore nutrition major. “Also, (it helps) having locked doors at all times and only being able to get in with a certain key.”

In the end, Kent State has done well prioritizing safety and taking the steps necessary to ensure students in residence halls will not face any immediate threats.

“Comparing it to the places I have been, I would say (Kent is an) A-minus,” Hendry said. “I always say there is a little bit of room for growth, and there is always something that you can change, improve and learn from. I have never been anywhere that is perfect.”

While professionals like Hendry play a key role in the safety of those on campus, students have to put it upon themselves to ensure that they are practicing basic safety measures.

“I want students to be aware of their surroundings and take responsibility for themselves and their community,” Church said. “If they do, the whole campus will be safer.”

Ryan Landolph is the resident halls reporter. Contact him at [email protected] Dana Miller is the safety/transportation reporter. Contact her at [email protected]