Date rape is the new student fear

September 24, 2004

The danger of date rape on campuses and the "vulnerability" of first-year and international students to muggers was highlighted this week as police and university security chiefs gathered to discuss staff and student safety.

A conference in London on Thursday heard that only a quarter of female students feel safe walking around campus at night.

Ahead of his conference speech, Norman Langford of the Association of University Chief Security Officers told The Times Higher that he intended to raise a range of issues, from the design and lighting of buildings to collaboration between agencies, to address problems related to drugs, theft and violent crime.

"I'm going to briefly talk about students' safety concerns and the problems they face the first time they are away from home and how susceptible they may be to attack from locals in some areas, who see them as easy targets," he said. "Equally, local people can sometimes feel upset or antagonised by students' behaviour.

"I'll also be talking about the vulnerability of international students, some of whom arrive with no idea of the crime and safety issues in the UK.

"Drink and drugs abuse are obvious issues. Date rape and the spiking of drinks is perhaps more widespread than people think and it can happen anywhere, not just in clubs or pubs."

Mr Langford, who is head of security at Coventry University, said he advised his staff not to assume that a man helping an apparently drunk friend into a car was a good Samaritan.

Nonetheless, he is convinced that campuses are getting safer. "There is better lighting, more closed-circuit television is being put in, security officers are better trained and we have more access control than we've had before."

Strong working relationships between the police, campus security, student unions and university authorities were vital, Mr Langford said.

Peter Taylor, head of university business for Sodexho, another delegate at the Ensuring Student Safety and Wellbeing Conference, said that careers and debt were students' prime worries.

Sodexho and The Times Higher carried out a detailed survey of student lifestyles last April. The survey found that two in five students juggle part-time jobs and study - and that these students were the most likely to suffer stress.

"There is clearly a connection between security and wellbeing," Mr Taylor said. However, a lot of factors impact on a student's wellbeing, not all of which are directly related to physical security and whether they feel comfortable walking around a campus at night.

"The main worries were about what jobs they will get after their degree and how much debt they will have," he added.

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

 

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