Are We Safe : The Review takes a special look into campus safety and security

Jill Martin

It is 11 at night. A couple of Washburn students have just finished up their walk around the perimeter of campus. They are rounding the bend at 21st and MacVicar when they suddenly see a mysterious figure ahead. All conversation stops. The two students get closer together and arm themselves just in case of an attack. Fortunately, the person passes with a quick hello. The two students begin to laugh at their absurdity, however, a more tragic scenario is not improbable.

Since school started on Aug. 20, there have been at least three incidents that have caught special attention from students, community and more importantly, the people who protect them. Students were notified of these events through a school-wide e-mail.

As most know, last April tragedy struck in Blacksburg, Va. when a gunman killed more than 30 students and faculty members. Since this horrifying occurrence, questions have begun to arise from troubled students, faculty members, several communities and parents.

Although an instance of this magnitude has not happened at Washburn, the reality of campus safety is brewing more than ever in the minds of many. However, Washburn campus safety has always been the number one priority for campus police and its’ administrators.

Dean Forster, chief of Washburn police, said Washburn has always dealt with security and student safety sternly.

“I started at Washburn five years ago as an intern and have never left. I have always been very impressed with the security here at the university,” said Forster. “Every member of the administration and faculty take it very seriously. There is an overall positive attitude on campus and it is nice to see the police get a sense of accomplishment when the students feel at ease”

Since the Virginia Tech incident, six new cameras have been attended to the array of monitors focused on all parts of campus. As for other additions to campus safety, Washburn is in the process of having phone alerts sent out to the students as well as the already in place e-mails. Washburn is in direct contact with the Topeka Police Department opposed to being connected solely with county police officials. Furthermore, the officers involved with Washburn have also been attending classes preparing them for an active shooter. There are six mandatory classes that all police officers are to undergo. As of now all members of the Washburn Police Department have concluded the courses, yet Forster explained the training never seems to cease.

“Training is always ongoing,” said Forster. “Keeping up on safety is a process that Washburn is dedicated to taking seriously.”

Along with the cameras, there are 13 strategically placed emergency phone boxes located around campus.

Although the boxes say “emergency,” it is not specifically limited to emergencies. If students would like an escort from the parking lot to any building or vice versa, or if students locked their keys in their car or even if they have a flat tire, the Washburn Police are more than willing to lend a hand.

“Mainly, we are here for the students,” said Forster. “We just want to be a part of the Washburn community just as everyone does. We are here to help.”

There are 14 full-time police officers, nine part-time, eight EMTs and one paramedic on staff at Washburn. Most of the police officers are on bicycle, as numerous students know. Although, the campus is fairly extensive in their protection, the Washburn police are always willing to take on any suggestions the students have to offer.

“Students are our eyes and ears,” said Forster. “Although we have a security system, students should feel free to stop by, ask questions and give us ideas on how to keep the campus safe. I am always open to talking and answering questions, students should e-mail me whenever, I don’t mind.”

The administration believes Washburn is an aptly safe campus and it appears most students agree. Montana Dale is a freshman living in the Living Learning Center. Safety has been on her mind as she has been adjusting to campus life, but she has never felt like her safety was in question.

“I like how well lit campus is,” said Dale. “I am never fearful, whether it be walking around or in my dorm room. I know there is always help available.”

As a freshman, on the other hand, Dale feels as though she would be overwhelmed if an episode of such horrific magnitude happened on campus.

“I do not feel that I would be prepared if another incident happened here,” said Dale. “I would feel so lost and would have no idea what to do.”

Fortunately, Dale and other students will have an opportunity to obtain information and have any questions answered at the Safety Fair 3-7 p.m. Sept. 26 in the parking lot #16, just north of the football field.

The Washburn Police Department will continue to grow as the years accumulate. Forster has faith in the students maintaining campus safety as a number one priority.

“Student’s shouldn’t have to worry about campus safety,” said Forster. “Students should worry about being students. If there is anything we can do to help, we stand ready.”