This time of year is a constant reminder of the chaos that comes with Fall orientation programming (which we uOttawa folk call 101 Week), and an important caveat that campus safety is everyone’s responsibility.
I am reminded that the first six weeks of school can be terrifying for new (and returning) students, and as a retired 101 Week guide (2012-2016… omg), I feel like I’m obligated to share a few tips to keep my pals safe, on any campus.
If you’re a campus critter, here’s what you should know in order to support your new pals:
- Consent is absolutely mandatory. Respect ‘no’ as a valid answer.
- Do you see someone that might look like they’re lost? Slow down and ask them if they need help. If that seems too awkward and unnatural, ask them how they’re doing… I promise, THEY WILL TELL YOU.
- When you’re in a hurry, you might become frustrated by all of the people walking slowly, asking lots of questions, or just looking around feeling completely hopeless and/or helpless, be kind. Smile at them as you scurry by. You may not be able to offer help, but a smile goes a long way. Remember that you were once a confused campus critter too.
- If you’re attending any events – especially those where alcohol is (un)knowingly being consumed, check in with the people around and make sure they’re having a good time. Making friends is not easy for everyone, and a quick ask might ease a person’s anxiety about being in a strange, new place.
- If you are consuming alcohol (or other substances), do so safely. Keep spare change so you or a friend can take the bus or a taxi if you’re too impaired to drive. If you notice someone who you think might be feeling sick, grab them a bottle of water or some snacks, or sit outside with them to get fresh air.
- If someone looks uncomfortable, ask if they’re okay. If you notice someone is the clear cause of this discomfort and you don’t know how to intervene, a simple thumbs up can often get a person’s attention. Or, offer to leave the space and grab snacks/meet another friend/chat the person up. Sometimes it’s hard to exit an uncomfortable situation, but having someone notice allows them to feel more confident about how to respond or seek help if they need it.
- Don’t be afraid to intervene when something doesn’t look right. If you feel it is safe to do on your own, step in and offer your support to a person who might be in distress. If you’re in campus housing, look for Residence Life staff to assist you. If you’re at a distance or feel unsafe getting directly involved, find one of the emergency buttons on campus (usually with easily identifiable blue lights), or call your Campus Security line.* (Bonus for uOttawa folks: check out SecurUO; it’s absolutely essential as it has numerous resources that you can access directly from the app)
Everyone deserves to have a safe start to their school year, help make it happen.