If someone were lurking around the corner in the women’s bathroom, Alison Leary knows she could be caught completely off guard.
The constantly dripping showerhead dampens the sound of scuffling feet. The timed overhead light flickers incessantly, reflecting off grimy metal towel hooks and throwing shadows upon the curtains.
But Leary, a freshman food and nutrition science major, finds comfort in the bathroom’s code-only access, knowing would-be intruders must not only gain entry into her residence hall, but also must enter a correct number code to get into the bathroom.
“It would be freaky to go in there alone (without a lock),” she said. Coming from Chicago, Leary said she feels relatively safe in her residence hall.
Following a string of sexual assaults on CSU’s campus and nearby residences, many students have returned to residence halls to find heightened safety measures such as exit-only, code- and card- access doors and door alarms.
After a professional evaluation of campus safety procedures, the CSU Housing Department made plans to implement many of the suggestions given during the evaluation, including door alarms, extra campus lighting and more campus call boxes.
However, Leary said students are already neglecting procedures intended to help create a safe environment. Many of the exit-only doors in residence halls are usable only during certain hours, and buzzer alarms are triggered if the doors are used after those hours. Yet students continue to use the doors after hours, Leary said, hindering the sense of security the doors should provide.
“If everyone is constantly going out (these doors), it takes away the response you would have if there was (an emergency or intruder),” she said. “They’re pointless.”
While the increased emphasis on safety should help to quell students’ fears about being vulnerable on campus, CSU Police Department Capt. Bob Chaffee said it is up to entire residence halls to protect tenants.
“Do not bank on what the housing department and police department do,” he said. “Your safety is your responsibility.”
Chaffee said many of the systems designed to protect students are doomed to be less than fully effective unless students take a personal initiative and interest in the welfare of the hall and community. He said to pay attention to unfamiliar guests or take note of suspicious behavior.
Too often, the standards for security and convenience conflict, Chaffee said. Students wishing to cool off their room with an open window simultaneously subject themselves to the threat of burglary, and the students must decide which is more important-safety or subzero temperatures, he said.
Students can take simple measures to decrease their chances of being victimized, Chaffee said. He suggests students use Safe Walk to walk across campus at night, avoid decision-impairing drugs and alcohol and trust their intuition when people or surroundings seem wary.
“If something feels funny or looks funny, don’t go there,” he said. “Avoid that situation.” The price of ignoring that instinct is sometimes greater than the inconvenience of changing plans.
“I never want one of our students to be tomorrow’s headline,” he said.
For females who wish to learn protective measures, CSUPD in conjunction with the Fort Collins Police Services will offer defense courses at the recreation center for a minimal fee.
The Rape Aggression Defense Course, or RAD, is a three to four day class designed to teach mental awareness, basic crime prevention and physical technique for dealing with attackers.
“I think it’s a good program,” said CSUPD Officer Angelo Trujillo, who will help teach the course. “It’s empowering.”
Even with defense training and heightened awareness, Chaffee said he cautions that crime can happen anywhere. At the same time, he said, being paranoid is not the answer. His best advice?
“Think like a cat,” Chaffee said. “They’re not stressed, but they are alert to their surroundings.”
For more information on RAD, call the CSUPD at 491-6425.
For more information on Safe Walk, call 491-1155.