With the semester now in full swing, safety in residence halls around the University of Toledo’s campus is a topic on students’, parents’ and faculty’s minds alike.
Now that nearly all first and second-year students are required to live on campus, more than 3,500 students reside at UT, according to Bradley Meynard, UT director of Housing.
An examination of the University of Toledo Police case logs, interviews with student residents and university officials reveal that although a number of crimes have been reported and loopholes in security measures enable prohibited behavior, a system of checks, administrative oversight and safety protocols promote an arguably safe living environment at UT.
The Office of Residence Life at UT is solely dedicated to student housing and “promotes student growth and opportunities through safe, supportive, inclusive and academically-focused environments in premier housing communities led by caring and engaging staff,” according to the resident life webpage.
“We start out at orientation talking about all the things we have in residence halls, we cover the fact that we have desks that are open, we are checking IDs when guests are coming in and students show their cards when coming in the buildings,” Meynard said.
Current procedures help promote safe environments according to student residents.
Second-year social work major Emma Brock said that she appreciates the locks on both the suite doors and individual room doors at Ottawa West Residence Hall.
“The swiping access you are granted is based on the building you live in and they mark your student ID with what dorm you live in too, which is nice,” second-year marketing and organizational leadership and management student Madison Alvarado said.
“But the downfall of that is once you’re swiped in no one is looking at IDs or really paying attention, they just assume you’re supposed to be there,” Alvarado also said, who lived in the Academic House and Horton International House.
Across campus in the Honors Academic Village, third-year student Hunter Brown said that student IDs were still needed to get access through the inner doors of the building, past the lobby, which made him feel safer.
The Office of Residence Life provides a list of the safety measures they take across all residence halls on their webpage, including locked doors, student ID access requirements, around-the-clock staff at information desks and 24-hour UTPD-monitored security cameras stationed throughout the buildings.
Residence Life also has preventative measures listed they suggest all residents take. They suggest locking doors, never lending Rocket IDs or keys to others, stopping others from slipping into the building behind you without swiping IDs and making sure exterior doors to the halls do not stay propped open.
University of Toledo Police Chief Jeff Newton said, “The most common crime on campus is theft and most thefts are just crimes of opportunity, so you can do things like making sure your valuables are secure and make sure doors are secured.”
Although there are security cameras in lobbies, second-year human resources student Arian Hayes, who lived in Carter Hall last year, said there were not any cameras in the hallways, which could make solving any potential crimes difficult. She said she always kept her room locked, “but I know some girls who always left their doors unlocked and they didn’t experience theft at all.”
However, University of Toledo Police Department case logs show that there were more than 25 reported thefts across all residence halls in the fall semester of last school year. Many of these were bicycle thefts that were also occurring in many other locations across campus, including the Student Union and Student Recreation Center.
“Most of the thefts are cases where someone was allowed access to the room with a group of people and someone took something they weren’t supposed to, or the students just left their doors open,” Newton also said about the thefts.
Case logs show that reports of theft went down significantly in the spring 2018 semester, with less than 10 thefts within residence halls reported to UTPD.
Hayes also said she believed it seemed very easy for residents to get away with using alcohol or other controlled substances inside of the residence halls. “There were room checks about twice a semester, but they gave you notice so people had time to hide any alcohol or anything else, and they weren’t allowed to touch anything or lift anything up to look for stuff during them,” she said of the ease of concealing substances.
Housing Director Meynard said, “RAs do a lot of educational programs in the halls of course and many of those programs are around drug and alcohol use.”
Throughout last year’s fall semester, there were more than 55 reported incidents involving alcohol or other drugs inside of UT’s Residence Halls, as shown in UTPD Case Logs. A majority of these resulted in student conduct filings.
In comparison to incident rates at other universities, Newton said, “They’re pretty similar to what you would expect to find at other colleges, especially with schools that have a similar residence size. I don’t think it’s out of line with other schools of a similar size.”
Also shown in the UTPD case logs are multiple incidents involving sexual assault, including sexual imposition, rape and dating violence, all taking place in residence halls. There were two different reported rapes last school year in residence halls, Carter Hall West and McComas Village.
Any resulting convictions are not included in the Case Logs, however.
When asked if he believes students are well protected from sexual assault, Newton said, “I think as much as one reasonably can be. We encourage students to take advantage of any kind of education that’s offered in that area. The sexual assaults that occur on college campuses are predominantly, if not entirely, of a known offender. Any case that you would find in our case logs that I can remember, and I’ve been here 21 years, is that type of case. It’s hard to police that, so that’s why it’s so important to educate.”
The case logs, which are currently updated through September 7, show one reported residence hall theft, less than five substance-use incidents in residence halls and no reported sexual assaults since the beginning of the semester.
Police Chief Newton said, “Within the last five years, I think we see fewer and fewer reports, things seem to be even safer and safer.” He attributed this to UT having a higher quality student body, than that of 15 or so years ago, that is overall more responsible.
“Our goal is to not only make campus safe, but we want you to have a great experience, college should be the best years of your life, but if you’re involved in some type of serious situation that maybe could have been avoided, it could be some of the worst times, and you’d look back on it as a negative experience. We want you to leave here prepared to enter the workforce and looking back thinking that it was a wonderful experience at UT,” Newton said.