Services, Programming Aimed at Campus Safety
October 24, 2012
MACOMB, IL -- What can Western Illinois University students, faculty and staff do to help prevent assaults from occurring on campus, reduce unlawful behavior, and to raise awareness for resources, services and programs available? How does the University handle those who break the law?
According to Gary Biller, vice president for student services, Western's Student Code of Conduct does not permit violent behavior. Students who are in violation of the code, as well as local, state and federal laws, will be dealt with through the sanctions available in the code of conduct. These sanctions can include both immediate, and permanent, removal from the University.
"We will not tolerate acts of violence in our community and we will not allow those students -- and their guests -- who choose to break the law and cause continual disruption to be a part of this institution," Biller noted. "President Thomas has asked that I work with leaders across campus to review security issues and concerns to further enhance safety on campus."
To raise awareness and provide resources that help ensure WIU remains a safe campus, programs include the OPS escort service, educational presentations, rallies and more. Since the late 1990s, the WIU Office of Public Safety (OPS) has offered the free escort service, which is available during the evening and overnight hours to anyone on campus. All it takes is a phone call to OPS (309-298-1949) and a member of the student patrol or an OPS officer will arrive at the caller's location and walk her/him to the desired location on campus (wiu.edu/vpas/public_safety).
"This is a service we publicize through the student handbook and our safety website, and we talk about this service at orientation. Our team police, who work in the halls, have information about escort services. We promote this free service at every available opportunity," said Tom Clark, interim director of public safety. "For the 2011-2012 academic year, we provided approximately 235 escorts. No one should ever be embarrassed about calling us. We are here to help."
In addition, each semester OPS, in conjunction with the Office of Student Judicial Programs, the Women's Center and Campus Recreation, sponsors Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training for female students, faculty and staff, as well as female community members. Topics covered include avoiding victimization, patterns of date rape encounter, basic principles of defense, full-speed hands-on exercise and dynamic simulation training. Lifetime re-training is free, and previous participants are welcome to attend the courses at no cost.
Safety tips and information are also shared with students and parents at orientation sessions, and are included in student publications such as the annual handbook/calendar, and OPS officers are available to speak to organizations and groups about safety-related topics. In addition, each residence hall complex is assigned a team police officer, who has an office in the residence hall and patrols the halls and the surrounding areas every evening.
Other departments and organizations on campus, such as the Women's Center and the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Initiative (IVPI), offer a variety of programming, resources and events each year to further raise awareness of and provide prevention education on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, physical abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence. In addition to an online interpersonal violence prevention education program that is available to all students, faculty and staff at ivpe.wiu.edu, the IVPI provides a number of opportunities for student involvement, including through a new Western Illinois Interactive Theatre (WIIT) group and the Green Dot bystander intervention violence prevention strategy. The Green Dot program empowers each individual to do his/her small part to actively, visibly oppose violence, intervene in high-risk situations and stand up for survivors. Ultimately, the goal is to generate a critical mass within the WIU and Macomb communities that will result in a reduction of violence, noted Janine Cavicchia, director of the WIU Women's Center.
Recently, the Women's Center, the IVPI and other sponsors hosted the 23rd annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally. The event is held each year to increase awareness of, and seek to end, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other forms of power-based interpersonal violence, as well as to remember and honor victims and survivors. The center also hosts The Clothesline Project each April as part of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. The project honors the survivors and victims of crimes of sexual abuse, rape, incest, sexual assault, battery, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, physical assault, and stalking. The Women's Center also hosts every February "The Vagina Monologues," which is part of the V-Day College Campaign, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. (wiu.edu/student_services/womens_center)
Rape awareness programming at WIU started in the mid-1970s, when Student Personnel Services (now Student Development and Orientation) and University Counseling Center staff members Nell Koester, Cari Sheets and Jo Ann Hummers initiated programming and conducted survivor support groups, which continue today. The IVPI currently helps students by enabling the University to provide additional interpersonal violence prevention resources; to develop an improved coordinated community response (including medical and emotional care, as well as police and judicial reporting); and to increase awareness among students, faculty and staff regarding prevention and support.(wiu.edu/student_services/ivpi)
The University Counseling Center provides free personal counseling to WIU students, and also offers a wide array of educational programs on topics including sexual assault prevention and healthy relationships. The center also offers the group, Surviving and Thriving, which provides the opportunity to build trust and healing for those who have been victimized from sexual trauma. (wiu.edu/student_services/ucc)
Since 1971, the University's Department of Psychology has offered a confidential hotline service (298-3211/toll-free 866-435-0480) for both the WIU and Macomb communities. The staff is comprised of paraprofessional student volunteers who are trained to provide callers with information, referrals and telephone counseling. (wiu.edu/hotline)
Western also works closely with the Western Illinois Regional Council's (WIRC) WIRC-Community Action Agency Victim Services unit which provides free, confidential services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Hancock, Henderson, McDonough and Warren counties.
Students are encouraged to "like" the University's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wiu.edu and to subscribe the University's daily eNews service at http://www.wiu.edu/news/enews/index.php to receive news and updates about incidents, programs, and more. The WIU Facebook page, home page (wiu.edu) and eNews service will be used to notify the campus community of incidents that occur off-campus, but in proximity of campus (those incidents that do not pose an immediate threat to campus community).
"The programs and services we provide our campus community are designed for everyone – men and women, faculty, staff and students," Clark added. "The prevention of violence is everyone's responsibility. We must work together and look out for one another."