On Sept. 7, 2018, an intruder broke into Schmidt Hall, went to the eighth floor and entered female residents’ showers and dorms. The suspect was eventually arrested and charged with burglary, invasion of privacy, criminal trespassing and harassment. The incident raised a lot of security questions about traditional housing and campus security in general. It begs the question: is West Chester University safe?
In my three years at West Chester University, I’ve never regarded the campus as particularly dangerous. The environment, constant police presence and various measures put in place, like the blue lights, make me feel safe as I walk around campus. In my dorm room, I never once felt unsafe. That being said, I had the opportunity to live in affiliated housing, which gave me extra security measures that traditional housing students may not have. Affiliated housing has dorm rooms that lock automatically, private bathrooms and more security cameras than traditional housing. However, you shouldn’t have to pay more money in order to feel safe in your own room.
There are a lot of precautions and safety measures set up around campus but what about when you step inside your dorm? What level of safety is provided inside these traditional dormitories if a non-resident can just walk in, go up to the eighth floor and enter the showers without anyone noticing? The security guards, police and staff in the dorms are all put there to ensure that we live in a safe and healthy environment. However, When the RAs are instructed not to talk about incidents like this and the Executive Director of Communications expresses that the suspect was “caught immediately,” though that conflicts with the Public Safety report, the presence of safety and comfort is taken away. West Chester needs to strive to keep their students as happy, healthy and most importantly, safe.
The university has its fair share of crimes and arrests, but we also have security measures like timely warnings put in place to make sure that we know about those dangerous instances. However, that doesn’t mean that West Chester can’t make improvements—specifically to traditional housing. Even something as simple as putting locks on the shower doors in the bathrooms would make students feel a lot safer when they shower or go into the bathrooms.
According to collegefactual.com, West Chester had 816 reported incidents for the year of 2017, which is higher than some other universities. However, of those 816, 44.1 percent were disciplinary actions and 51.2 percent were arrests for possessions. Only 2.1 percent were related to major crimes, and the other 2.6 percent were violence against women.
So, to answer my question, is WCU safe? My answer is yes. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. This incident should be a wake up call to make traditional housing better and safer so that incidents like this cannot and will not happen again. All students, no matter where they live or how much money they pay to live there, deserve to feel happy and healthy in their own space.
Alison Roller is a third-year student English major who minors in journalism. AR875447@wcupa.edu