University Campus Safety is Unexploded Bomb: Awareness of Problem is Priority

By Tang Yu-Min (唐毓閔), Chen Liang-Ta (陳亮達)

  Recently, an acid attack happened in National Taiwan University (NTU), causing one death and two injuries. According to police, after the murderer, who was a student from another school, splashed sulfuric acid to NTU’s students, he then committed suicide. University is an open space. Everybody is permitted to freely get in and out of the campus, resulting in many potential dangers. Universities are flashing red light on security.

Crisis in open space campus

  Half a year ago, a random killing spree happened in Taipei Municipal Wenhua Elementary School. Campus security has been questioned — although it is a semi-open campus, it couldn’t avoid accidents. However, universities are open space campuses, which, needless to say, bring many risks.

  Walking around the school, not only could you see professors, students, and administration staff all around, but also builders who repair the road, promoters who gives away flyers, and neighbors who come for exercise. Our school has set up monitors and guards are stationed. Yet, as long as there is free access to schools, people with bad intentions have an opportunity to commit crimes. Apparently, there are loopholes in keeping campus safe.

According to the Ministry of Education’s 2015 Taiwan University Safety Statistics, accident events are the most. The second is disease events. The third is safety and protection events, usually happened in family. Graphic by Chen Liang Ta(陳亮達)


  According to the Ministry of Education’s 2015 Campus Safety Statistics, accidents accounted for 3,120 cases, safety maintenance 1,122, violence and bias 459, and the disease events 1,524 for a totaling of about 6,943 safety cases. Vehicle accidents accounted for most of the accident cases, followed by theft and sexual harassment.

  Nevertheless, these statistics are all based on Ministry of Education, while many were not taken into account – those who were taken care of by students themselves, including those whose consequences they took upon themselves because the accidents were not too serious. People can’t help but doubt that whether our schools are safe or not.

Student perception: crisis handling
On the basis of SHU’s campus safety survey, when students are in danger, the main way to handle crisis is seeking help from friends or other peers. Another is calling police officers for help. A third way is asking student safety center for assistance. A minority of them just quietly accept the fact that an accident has occurred. Graphic by Chen Liang Ta

  Based on Shih Hsin University (SHU) campus safety survey (chart2), as students suffer from danger, a majority of students cope with it through peer groups, police officers, and military instructors. Few will silently endure by themselves alone. In the face of out-of-control perils, as a university student, how to keep awareness of a crisis in mind is a priority for preventing unhappy incidents and keeping yourself safe.

  “If I ran into a risk in school, I will inform the school because our school is responsible for our safety. This is important for us to let the school be aware of the problems that are there,” said SHU’s student Lin Jun-heng (林俊亨). He said our campus is an open space and dangers come up certainly. Therefore, the way to defend oneself is more crucial, said Lin.

  Another SHU’s student, Helen Chen (陳禹岑), pointed out that it depends on the scale of crisis. “Suppose it’s a minor offence, instead of informing the school, I will alert my friend via social media.” Chen said that university is not like a high school, which is surrounded by walls and patrolled by guards. “As a result, while I’m alone, I always pay attention all the time in campus, especially in the night.”

School perception: crisis handling

  Security guards are the first line defense, followed by notifying military instructors or police in times of danger, and last is solving the problems, according to SHU’s military instructor, Yang Wenxue(楊文學). We can’t execute public power on suspicious people who are on campus. When a dangerous situation arises, the security guards will alert us. Our responsibility is to stop bad things happening. If it didn’t work, police officers will be the last defense.

When bad things happen, through strict surveillance system, safety guards can respond instantly. Besides, the system can better ensure campus safety, reducing danger in corners. Photo by Chen Liang Ta

  The monitor system in SHU is quite strict. When the first line warning is ringing, security guards will immediately provide assistance, based of SHU’s security rule, said Mr. Wang (警衛王先生). If a crime occurred at midnight, the primary thing is to identify the location, then check out the process of crime in surveillance monitor, and activate crisis handling SOP. In the light of SHU’s regulations, people are banned from sticking around school at night. In the future, we will enhance this role via advocacy.

  When it comes to NTU’s murder incident, Yang said that in this open space campus, there is no guarantee that our campus is 100-percent safe. All we can do is first taking precautions against suspected people, who frequently show up in school. Second, in case of emergency, we should call police officers. Last but not least, after an incident happens, we will make good use of social media like Facebook and spread information about school safety. If the victims are still scared, we will properly provide psychological counseling for them.

Current campus safety situation in university

  Campus safety events have been gradually increasing year by year. Most students study in others cities and do have to take care of themselves, so they usually ask companions and friends for help when they got into problems. Due to various factors, the function of the campus security has been deteriorating. However, crisis can be everywhere in an open space. In order to provide a safe environment for students, faculty and staff and all campus authorities should enhance safety advocacy, improve rapid response, and the most important, cultivate awareness of crisis.

Safety advocacy

  Student would attend freshman assembly, when they enrolled. This will not only help students understand the environment of school, but also promote the importance of campus security.

  However, we found that the campus security education is still inadequate. In order to enhance students’ awareness of campus security, first of all, schools should set up campus safety plan, and hold seminars and education for disaster prevention, according to the safety program.

  Nowadays, most schools put campus safety education into the course. The content includes self-defense and safety advocacy, so that students could develop a comprehensive sense of crisis awareness. 

Safety a top priority

  Last month blood was shed on NTU campus, which showed the importance of keeping campus safe. First, the school police did not take action immediately when the event broke out. Second, the student association took about 40 minutes to clarify what was going. It showed a lack of prompt solutions to urgent problems in campus crisis management.

  In order to improve the prompt handling of campus security, schools should integrate the relevant units to streamline the process. In addition, it is necessary to regularly examine the professional capability of the staff. As a result, school authorities could understand the students’ problems in the first time and report to relevant authorities to enhance the timely handling of the campus security crisis.

Foreign campus crisis handling

  American citizens are allowed to have guns. In 23 states in the United States, schools can set their own gun management regulations, so campus safety related measures are very important. Understanding the restricted area of ​​guns and obtaining hunting permits are the conditions that gun owners must meet.

  In addition, most schools have a specific security phone, which is a faster response than calling 911, and there will be school buses to escort late staying students to make sure that students are safe.

  In Taiwan, Tamkang University become the world’s first International Safe Schools(ISS) in 2008. ISS emphasizes that campus security must be combined with the community to bring a long-term and comprehensive security prevention programs. Joining ISS is the guarantee given by the school to students and faculty.

Campus crisis awareness

  A few days ago, a murder happened in NTU. Our society focuses on the campus security issues again. University is an open space, so it is difficult to take every person into account who entered the campus. “The crisis management has two meanings. First, take preventive measures to avoid the schools from having a crisis. Second, when the crisis occurs, it must be effectively handled,” said Yi Ya-Ru(易雅如), an instructor of the Taipei Medical University.

  The school should build up a pre-contingency plan to provide schools, students, parents and teachers with different expertise to communicate views and make decisions effectively. Still, the school must set up a “crisis management team” to maximize the effectiveness of managing crisis. Of course, Yi also said that the most important thing is to build a sound relationship between teachers and students, which can strengthen the crisis prevention network.

Campus security still has lots of to do
Campus is open space. There is no guarantee that our surrounding is safe, thus, all we can do is keep awareness of a crisis. Pay attention at all times when you are alone. Photo by Chen Liang Ta

  In the future, universities will remain an open space and our campus is not safe.  Where there is open space, there is a chance accidents will happen, such as the latest NTU murder case. Although our school stations safety guards and military instructors, and there are a lot of monitors around the campus, it is still likely to become a crime scene.

  As students, we should always be conscious of crisis. While an accident happens, remember that protecting ourselves is the most important thing. As for school authorities, after the peril, the only way to reduce number of campus incidents is to immediately handle the problems and strengthen propaganda and education.

  With limited numbers of safety guards and faculties, many schools are facing a shortage of manpower to take care of campus safety. Yang Wenxue indicates that with student council and union’s help in building up a defense line together, collectively maintaining campus safety is the trend that every university needs to think about in the future. Only through collective efforts can school safety be ensured.

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