In the Work of Prevention, A Shared Responsibility to Step Up

In the Work of Prevention, A Shared Responsibility to Step Up 

A presentation screen showing an image of shoes and the quote "Your role in keeping our schools safe"


As April 16, 2017 marked the ten year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, survivor and campus safety advocate Kristina Anderson contributes the following post offering her perspective on the importance of personal engagement in public safety.

April holds many poignant dates significant to those in violence prevention and response – anniversaries mark the tragedies that occurred in Littleton, Blacksburg and Boston. Each one reminds us of the potential of violence to occur, of the important lessons that have been learned.

As members of the faculty, professors, and the greater student body, we enter upon communities that are vibrant, expansive and supportive.  We navigate through our time in university or college with unconscious belief, that the learning environment will also be safe, and secure, for our physical and emotional well-being.

The maintenance of safety has to be one of the core values of an environment that helps to position people to stretch beyond their personal and cognitive limits of original, and personal growth. Human beings are in positions to learn and transfer knowledge, take imaginative risks and contribute to their relationships best when they feel personally safe.

There is a critical but sometimes only faintly visible contract underlining our presence in academia: once we accept the privilege and opportunity to serve in learning environments, we inherently begin to play a role in contributing to the safety and security of that community.

To participate in the process of claiming ownership for safety within a campus, ask questions.

If you’re a member of staff or teaching faculty: What is the workplace violence prevention policy? If I have an issue or concern about the wellness of student or colleague, what are the recommended procedures for bringing this to light? How, and by whom, will my issue be handled?

If you are a parent visiting campus: don’t allow your education about campus security to be derailed or appeased by the knowledge of blue-light towers or emergency call boxes. As permanent fixtures, they provide a visual reaffirmation and chance to reach 911, yet it’s important to understand the greater initiatives and preventative steps in campus preparedness. The professors and faculty, what level of prevention and emergency response training are they provided? In case of an act of violence, who has the authority to send out mass communications? Does local law enforcement and campus safety officials participate in training together? Do the classrooms doors have locks? If it’s not an immediate emergency, how can my student voice a concern, or potential safety issue?

When we participate in the process of claiming ownership for safety and security and take on the work of awareness, we accept that safety is not a guarantee but a shared value and goal. This realization is our greatest potential to preventing violence.

– Written by Kristina Anderson

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