1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
Ask just about anybody at the University of Wyoming and they'd tell you that this is a safe place.
Want proof? The latest Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory, one of three student surveys conducted by UW on a biennial basis since 1994, returned an 86-percent satisfaction ranking with campus safety and security.
The UW Police Department (UWPD), led by Chief Troy Lane, certainly deserves credit. With 14 certified peace officers, four security guards, five certified dispatchers and other staff, UWPD works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to prevent crime, ensure public safety and enforce the law.
But the safety of some 13,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff can't solely be the responsibility of the university's robust police force.
"The collaborative nature of the university is so important, because we can't be everywhere all the time," says Aaron Appelhans, UWPD's crime prevention and school resource officer. "Our population is obviously a little different than a regular municipality that has a police force. The majority of our population is between the ages of 18 and 24 and some students, particularly when they first come to the university, might not understand the consequences of their actions.
"The entire campus does a really good job of educating students about making the best choices," he says. "Our main job is to enforce the law and rules and regulations but the educational piece is key and all of our officers take it seriously."
Both programs serve to raise students' awareness about potential dangers on campus, such as alcohol abuse and sexual violence, and empower them to take an active role in keeping UW as safe as possible.
"Although our students consider UW to be a very safe place, we continue to be vigilant in helping them be thoughtful and proactive regarding their safety," says David Cozzens, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "Our ongoing training and programming efforts are crucial to maintaining and, ultimately, improving campus safety."
The S.T.O.P. Violence program is new at UW this year -- sort of.
The university, years ago, had a similar program -- funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice -- that worked to teach students about how to avoid sexual and relationship violence and stalking and offered services for victims of violence.
When the grant expired, however, UW lost the funding to staff the coordinator position and the program lost momentum.
With funding support from the Dean of Students Office, S.T.O.P. Violence was re-launched over the summer, directed by Julianne (Jules) Arthur.
"I think every university should have a program like this one, because sexual and relationship violence and stalking can be such huge problems on college campuses," says Arthur. "The national statistics show that one in four women will be assaulted during her four years at college. That's just huge. But it's something we can do something about through the right education."
Arthur will develop and coordinate programs designed to increase awareness and to prevent sexual violence, provide crisis management and advocacy, train student peer educators and work collaboratively with UW and community agencies to enhance prevention and response efforts.
Though she's been at UW for less than six weeks, Arthur has already created a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a weekly blog to push out the S.T.O.P. Violence program's message.
"The reintroduction of S.T.O.P. Violence is a definite plus, because that educational component had really been lacking," says Appelhans. "Sexual violence and assault, unfortunately, happens -- not only on our campus but other college campuses -- but we can help prevent it with the proper education."
The ability of students to make the right wellness choices also plays a part.
Led by project coordinator Lena Newlin, AWARE works to promote healthy choices about the use of alcohol and other drugs. That mission begins even before students attend their first classes at UW, with AlcoholEdu for College, an online, non-opinionated alcohol education program used by more than 450 universities across the United States.
Since implementing AlcoholEdu for College at UW four years ago, Newlin says 95 percent of incoming freshmen have completed the course, including nearly 1,500 students this fall.
"We take alcohol use very seriously and we're going to be proactive about preventing abuse," says Newlin. "AlcoholEdu really works to ensure that every student comes here with some competency about alcohol and its impact on their choices. That helps to create a safer environment, not only for each of them but for anybody who is around them."
Whether vandalism, abuse or burglary, Appelhans says alcohol is typically the common denominator in most crimes.
"Whenever I talk to students, I tell them that most people we come across have alcohol in their system," says Appelhans, citing a recent report from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police that shows alcohol as a contributing factor in about 85 percent of arrests made by UWPD. "The best advice I can give anybody is to avoid alcohol."
Arthur has another piece of advice: Don't simply rely on UWPD; take an active role in the safety of your university.
"We all have the same goal, to end violence at UW," she says. "We each just need to do our part."
Visit the Campus Safety homepage.
Content courtesy Steve Kiggins