Having to send someone you love dearly and feel protective over to college is a process that strikes profound fear in the hearts of many parents and even students themselves. With frightening news stories of children going missing and the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground” referring to college as just that, the dominating narrative seems to be that college is terribly unsafe.
The documentary, and many who envision an unsafe college environment, focuses mainly on massive well-known schools in big cities, such as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University. But what about those who attend small schools distanced from big cities and centered upon community, activism and inclusion, such as SUNY New Paltz. How safe are we here?
On Jan. 24, all SUNY New Paltz students received an email sharing the details of a new safety procedure. Over the weekends, academic buildings will now be locked and students and faculty will need to use their student ID cards to gain access. The email included that these new procedures are part of “efforts to make our campus more secure.” The goal is for all buildings to require card access within the next few years.
On paper and without looking too deeply into the facts, New Paltz may appear to some as an unsafe campus. The website American School Search’s profile of New Paltz rates quality at five out of a possible five stars, costs at three and a half and safety at one star. College Factual lists that SUNY New Paltz has an above average amount of crime reports. These reports are based on the number of crime-related incidents filed at the school. But trusting these two sources on their own would not tell the whole story.
For one, the amount of reports that a college has does not necessarily mean there is more crime than other schools. It often means students are more encouraged to report offenses than they are at other schools and that these schools take reports more seriously. As shown in the documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” many schools receive many complaints and attempts to file reports that the school ends up hiding from official data.
Another huge factor in the data is what crimes are being reported.
In the year 2019, there were 166 crimes reported on New Paltz’s campus, according to the University Police’s Police Log Records. Fifty-eight of those incidents were drug-related, mainly possession of marijuana or smoking on campus. Many would say that others smoking marijuana does not make them feel unsafe. College Factual calculates that 5% of these crimes are sexual assault and stalking. The University Police Department could not be reached for a comment in time for print.
The campus escort service is meant to provide an extra sense of safety on campus as well. Students can call the number 845-257-3338 between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. to get a free shuttle anywhere on campus. The van only has a two person capacity, however, and the website threatens that the escort will call the University Police Department or an ambulance if a passenger is intoxicated. Groups of three or more can be accompanied by a walking escort.
Third-year business management major Vince Britton said he doesn’t feel the need for the service.
“Considering I’m a decent-sized Black male, I don’t really see any issues with my safety on campus and it’s always well-lit,” Britton said. “I trust my own intuition more than other people’s so I don’t think I could really benefit from it.”
But some others who would like to use the service believe the rules are counterproductive to the program’s goals of keeping students safe.
“I feel like no student would call to use this resource if ever in need knowing the possible negative outcomes, it’s supposed to help students, not turn them away,” said second-year political science major, Makayla Scully.
The program’s contact person, Lieutenant Greg Thompson, could not be reached in time for print.