Red alert: Dangers on college campuses

Published 6:01 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

Who’s responsible when horrific things happen to coeds? The women? The college/the university? The parents? The perpetrators?

I know that some parents are reluctant to talk to their female college students about the dangers they face and strategies that might keep them safe. In spite of safety precautions, bad things still happen, but perhaps parents or trusted aunts/uncles will share my column with the young women they love. Now that college students are settled in, it’s time to take action with a bit of information as a starting point: One of the reasons young people engage in risky behaviors is physiological as the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which controls the ability to see the consequences of actions, is not yet fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or later.

I’ve spent decades in colleges and universities, so I want to share some tips:

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Your vehicle: Park close to buildings and in spaces with good lighting. Request an escort once it’s dark, and go in groups if possible. Use a backpack to have your car keys ready and your hands free. Check inside your car before getting in. Yes, even if you’ve locked it, perps can get in. Have an alarm installed on your car. Once you’re in, lock all your doors before engaging your seat belt.

My story: I was leaving a parking lot at the University of Toledo in broad daylight when a very large man suddenly jumped in the passenger seat. Keeping my cool, I asked, “Where are you going?” I delivered him to his destination, and we kept silent throughout. I locked my car doors after that.

Meetings/classes on campus: Some perps use college classrooms as hunting grounds. Just because someone seems to be lawfully in that class as an enrolled student does not mean he is. Also, not every college student is operating with a full deck. Be aware of who is following you. If you are suspicious, approach another female and ask for help.

My story: I was leaving an Urbana College poetry seminar early one evening. When I left, a guy in the seminar left as well. We were both parked close to the building, and he began to walk along with me. He said, ”This is my car” and opened his car door as he simultaneously grabbed me to force me into his car. I looked across the lot and at a great distance saw a few students. I screamed at them to help me. He let me go, jumped in his car and drove away. He was not a student at that college. At another college where I worked and which I won’t name, a serial kidnapper was enrolled and used the college as his hunting grounds.

As a college professor, I have taught students whose behavior frightened me. In evening classes with those students, I always ask for an escort to my car. One such student followed me in his car. Once I knew he wasn’t giving up and continued to tail me, I drove to a neighbor’s house, jumped out of my car and ran up their walk. If I had it to do over, I would have driven to a police or fire station and laid on my horn. I had, however, enough sense to know not to go to my house, but I failed to realize I was endangering my neighbor.

Many of you do not have loud voices, and others will not always be around to rescue you. You need to acknowledge that almost all men are stronger than you, especially in upper body strength. And you cannot compete with a person who is holding a loaded firearm.

Parties, bathrooms, remote areas of libraries, and virtually empty labs: These are good stalking grounds for perps. Parties on and off campus, including at fraternity houses, are especially dangerous. Young men with testosterone raging, booze, and drugs are an invitation for disaster. And your soda can be drugged. Take your own soft drinks and don’t let them out of your hands. Have you heard about the guys at Ramapo College who are alleged to have played “Rock, paper scissors?” to determine who was next in line to have sex with an unconscious female student?

A friend of mine recently told his granddaughter, “Three things will thwart your college progress, get you off track: sex, drugs, and alcohol.” I think sex is relatively common with today’s college students, so I would add the following: Be highly selective about your partners, and don’t engage in unprotected sex. It’s not only about pregnancy, but it’s also about a host of other issues too numerous to mention but they include violence and STDs.”

Enough of the warnings. My message to students: Attend class regularly; do your homework; prepare for tests; write great papers; get a library card and use it ; join campus groups that interest you; and stay focused on your academic, career, and personal goals.

Dr. Vivian Blevins is a Harlan County native. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College in Ohio. Reach her at