Concerns from students about sexual assault reports pushed UA officials to remind students of the resources available to them as well as what they can do to ensure their own safety on campus.
On Sept. 2, UAPD sent out a campus-wide RazAlert that a student in Holcombe Hall had reported a sexual assault. Initially the student reported that they did not know the suspect, however the report was corrected two days later, UAPD Captain Gary Crain said.
“The victim and the suspect were acquainted and known to each other,” Crain said. “There was no break-in and the status of the case now is that the report has been finalized and submitted to the prosecuting attorney’s office for their review.”
The sexual assault report and RazAlert left some parents and students feeling like the residence halls on campus were not safe, though that is not the case, said Melissa Harwood-Rom, Dean of Students.
Sophomore Dakota Scott, a resident of Holcombe Hall, was woken up by the RazAlert.
“As soon as I heard the alert say ‘Holcombe’ my heart started to race,” said Scott. “It’s really scary to think something like that could happen in your building.”
Scott thinks the atmosphere in the building felt a shift for the weeks following the report and that the halls were quiet and empty.
The doorknobs are a bit older in Holcombe, and they do not lock automatically, so Scott has been careful to make sure the latch is secure since the incident, he said.
There have been four reports of rape this school year, one in the Sigma Nu fraternity house, one in the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, one in Holcombe Hall and one in Maple Hill East, according to the UAPD crime log.
Harwood-Rom thinks that the concern on campus is not necessarily a bad thing, as it indicates that there is a desire to take action rather than ignoring sexual assault and rapes, she said.
“I think I would be more worried if we weren't having reports, because we know it's happening,” Harwood-Rom said. She feels like the reports allow the university to take measures and make change.
Harwood-Rom has been the Dean of Students since 2011 and cannot recount a time in which a student who has entered the dorms without a fob or unaccompanied, or tailgated, has harmed a student, she said.
"I think people should be aware that most of the trouble that's caused in residence halls is caused by either the residents or someone that the residents invited in,” Harwood-Rom said.
The residence halls are equipped with technology that alert of fires and inclement weather as well as technology in the doors to auto lock, alert for propped-open doors and open by fob. There are more than 800 security cameras placed at entrances and public areas across campus.
While there are security measures in place, it is up to the students to be aware of their surroundings and to lock their doors, said Takama Sutton-Brooks, director for residence education.
“You always have to be vigilant,” Sutton-Brooks said. “We try to remind students to take your keys where you're going and to let somebody know when you leave your building and when you return. It feels silly because our campus is pretty safe, but it's a precautionary measure that students will take with them when they leave campus.”
Resident assistants also go through initial trainings on subjects like alcohol poisoning intervention, health and wellness checks, Title IX reporting and effective communication with residents, said Sutton-Brooks. They then do a training in the fall to refresh on the information and dig deeper into concerns they’ve noticed up to that point.
“Our staff is very responsive so it makes a huge difference if you feel like people are watching your community, not just our staff but each other,” Sutton-Brooks said. “Making sure neighbors are watching out for neighbors is kind of the point of programming–to get people out of their room and get to know the people in their community.”
University Housing officials on all levels, from resident assistants to the assistant director, are constantly on call and ready to react to safety concerns called in by residents, Sutton-Brooks said.
More recently, University Housing’s communication department has removed blueprints of the residents halls from the general accessible housing website, said Christopher Spencer, assistant director for marketing and strategic communications.
“We brought them into a space where only those students who have a university ID and come in and see them,” said Spencer. “In this day and age, you just never know who could be out there and what they might do with that kind of information. But we certainly don't want someone to be able to just see how to maneuver through our buildings.”
When it comes to concerns about feeling safe from sexual assault, Harwood-Rom thinks supporting and believing victims, as well as encouraging victims to report incidents is the best thing staff and students can do.
“I think this is a safe place, and I think if students don't feel safe, they need to tell someone,” Harwood-Rom said. “If you're in a residence hall, you need to talk to your RA or your CRE or you can talk to us.”