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Students and organizations on campus share their perspectives on keeping each other safe

Millersville says it is dedicated to keeping students safe and is also recognized as being a safe campus. Students give their perspectives on how safe they feel and their efforts to help others be safe. Brian Markley/Snapper

Simren Shah
Associate Features Editor

Brian Markley
Associate Sports Editor

Millersville University ranks year after year as one of the safest universities in the state but some students still feel unsafe?

Campus police are always out, whether it be helping students cross the street or simply patrolling campus. Along with their efforts, there are emergency call box systems scattered around campus that will contact the local authorities when pressed.

But what happens if those emergency stations don’t work? What about the conflicts that occur out of sight of the university police? Police Chief Pete Anders points out that that’s where we come in. 

We need to help when we see someone struggling at a party or walking alone after a night class. The university police do their best, but they can’t stop everything that happens behind closed doors.

“I see simply “being nice” and looking out for each other as something that has always been at the core of our Ville culture,” Millersville University Police Chief Peter Anders says.

Anders cares deeply about this because he is more than Millersville’s police chief. He is also a parent and a Millersville alumnus. Student safety isn’t just his job, it’s something that he takes personally.

We need to carry that same culture that Chief Anders describes in times when the University police force isn’t around. Many Millersville students already have tactics to keep themselves safe. 

“I always carry an additional large water bottle with me whenever I go out to parties, just in case someone else needs it,” says one student.

Something as small as extra water can improve someone else’s night. However, another female student raised another concern when it comes to walking on campus. 

“Always being aware of my surroundings. Knowing if there is someone behind me, in front of me and how far they are is another thing I pay attention to when walking on campus, especially at night,” she points out as things she tries to do.

Safety becomes even more of a concern on the weekend, with many events and parties taking place. A “designated friend” is a tactic that another female student uses. 

These are examples of how students are taking responsibility into their own hands when needed. Creating a safe campus is our obligation. 

“Community engagement is also a theme that is integral to community policing,” Chief Anders says. 

Community can take on many different forms, from roommates and friends to Greek life and other campus organizations. 

Justin Yerkes, President of Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, says “whenever we have a mixer or event we have sober brothers, at least one or two.” Yerkes said that his fraternity supports the work that other organizations do to prevent driving under the influence. Some of his brothers attend events like Acacia’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving 5K run they participated in recently. 

“Fortunately we haven’t had issues with [drunk driving]. A big piece that contributes towards that is having open conversations about that,” said Yerkes.

Yerkes said that he personally has never run into a situation where he needed to stop someone from trying to drive under the influence. However, his fraternity has implemented precautionary measures to prevent dangerous behavior and promote safety.

“We have had sober brothers that have taken keys just for precautionary reasons because there are guys that are commuters that want to be here for the events and have a good time but want to go home after. That is not always the best idea,” said Yerkes.

Yerkes said sober brothers have called Ubers and allowed brothers to spend the night so that they did not drive under the influence.

As far as accountability for violence and fights, Yerkes said that there have not been any issues in his Sigma Tau Gamma. 

“If there is someone who is becoming violent, angry, or irritable usually we will have somebody who knows the person talk to them and diffuse the situation [by] removing them from the [other] person or whatever is going on,” Yerkes says.

Yerkes said there is a standards board that is separate from his fraternity that brothers are sent to if they are involved in an altercation.

As for incidents involving sexual assault and harassment, Yerkes said he has not dealt with many instances of that. However, he gave one example of a time when he intervened on behalf of a female student who was uncomfortable with a male student’s advances toward her.

“I noticed that one of our brothers was talking to a girl and… I think it was one of her first times coming around, so she never really knew him too well” Yerkes says. “Now, he did not really mean anything wrong by [his actions]. He is a nice guy but you could see that she was a little uncomfortable. Personally, I stepped into that situation and just talked to the guy… I pulled him aside, I said ‘let’s go over here. I want to show you something.’ Rather than addressing it there and making it an awkward altercation, I just pulled him off to the side, distracted him with something else and it was fine.”

Yerkes said all fraternities and sororities attend mandatory events where sexual assault and harassment prevention discussions take place. At these events, students are given tips on what to do in specific situations to make sure everything is consensual and no sexual assault or harassment occurr. 

“We were recently rated one of the safest schools. I think it is nice to see there are not that many incidents in Greek life that are violent or anything too drastic,” said Yerkes.

Leah McDonald, Delta Zeta Sorority and Peer Educator with the Center of Health Education and Promotion (CHEP,) said she feels that “Millersville is safe for the most part but could be improved.” 

For example, McDonald said the blue light system could be more effective if more blue lights were implemented. She said she has taken it upon herself to speak with Chief Anders about her concerns and was told that the university tries to add one or two each year; however the lights are costly as they must be directly linked to 9-1-1.

“I contribute to making this campus safer by presenting programs through the Center of Health Education and Promotion. We focus on many areas that we feel the campus needs, but one of them is bystander intervention,” said McDonald.

As far as driving under the influence goes, McDonald said that she has personally helped someone get home safely from a social event.

“They were very intoxicated and insisted on driving. Others as well as myself did everything in our power to prevent them [from driving.] It ended up working since they got an Uber home,” said McDonald.

McDonald said Delta Zeta has a system similar to the “sober brothers” precaution that fraternities use.

“We always have sober designated drivers who look over the sisters who are over 21 at events and who are consuming alcohol,” said McDonald.

Mcdonald also said that her sorority has a “risk management chair” who advises her chapter on risk management strategies as well as checking in with sisters who are over 21.

Although sexual assault statistics at Millersville are comparatively low, incidents do happen. The statistics do not account for unreported cases which cannot be accurately represented.

“I saw a really drunk male touching females inappropriately,” McDonald says. “I was with some of my society sisters and they brought it to my attention. Some of them were even victims of this. I instantly went up to someone that was in charge and told them about the  situation. I told them that the male was clearly intoxicated and should not be in an atmosphere where he is touching females inappropriately. The male was then kicked out.”

Mcdonald notes that there are free programs with trained staff located in the Montour House that CHEP is involved with to prevent and eliminate sexual assault. She says it is important to be responsible and active rather than just being a bystander when someone needs help.

“When I go out with friends, I usually keep an eye out for them and make sure everyone is accounted for,” McDonald says. She said she is willing to help both her friends and people she does not know.

According to the US Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security analysis conducted earlier this year, Millersville was named the safest campus in Pennsylvania. However, there is always room for improvement.

While there are institutions put in place to promote safety, students play an integral role in keeping each other safe. We owe it to each other to ensure a shared sense of responsibility that will positively impact our community and help to make those improvements happen.