It has been argued that universities are a microcosm of society. This means that good and bad are shown equally and, to some extent, they add up. Universities are fairly large and diverse communities spread across multiple campuses including off-campus areas that may or may not be under the university’s jurisdiction. The onus of preventive services falls on the university administration.
The mission of the university is to provide a safe environment for working, learning and teaching, protecting resources, facilities and people. Universities are places to store important data sets, research and personal information.
Cybersecurity has moved to the top of the list on risk ratings with extensive measures put in place to protect information and protect the university. This, of course, logically falls under the responsibilities of information technology departments, but requires the cooperation of security services personnel as well. Crime society find their way through the permeable walls of our campus.
Sociologist Jane Addams argues that “the good we keep for ourselves is dangerous and uncertain until it is kept for all of us and integrated into our lives”. This is true for universities.
Safety and security remain important to maximize the value found in the campus environment. The problem is that the university, by its nature and original purpose, should be open and accessible to all. The reality is that, despite the fact that our campuses are in bad shape, universities should prioritize the funding of extensive measures to protect services in all areas.
Our reality today is steeped in crime, violence against women (GBV), poverty, inequality, unemployment, unstable electricity and various other factors throw out of kilter any measures to protect services. Depending on the location of the campus, there may be some disruptions due to adverse weather conditions. Crimes in the press also plague our campuses, where discretion over security measures is limited and codified in law. This creates a relationship of trust with the various arms of government including, for example, the SAPS and the administrative system.
Besides its central functions, the university is responsible for maintaining services on campus and, to some degree, off campus. To give an example, the lack of accommodation beds on campuses means that students have to move to other areas of the campus or to private student accommodation (accredited or unaccredited).
It is the responsibility of universities to create safe corridors for students and staff when traveling between areas that are not “university” areas. In the absence of visible police, the university has no choice but to enter and protect the university environment.
In recent years, criminals are realizing that students have electronic devices for the purpose of studying, or cell phones. This is seen as an easy way to deal with unarmed robberies. The latest trend is “fake Ubers” that go around while thieves jump out of cars and rob students or staff. This problem is compounded by load shedding as criminals take money during periods of darkness and system outages.
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The upcoming establishment of the Confidentiality of Student Accommodation at Nsfas brings with it new risks as it raises the question of who will end up ensuring safety and security when the jurisdiction changes?
Universities have joined the debate to mitigate these issues by creating districts to improve or secure routes (including patrol cars, CCTV cameras, dispatch of officers and mobile phones) due to the challenges faced by municipalities and SAPS. This is not financially sustainable in the long run, and requires joint cooperation as, in the long run, the cost is prohibitive.
In a region plagued by GBV, universities are not immune to what is often referred to as the “second epidemic”. As we find ourselves nearing the end of the annual 16 Days of Human Rights Campaign, which aims to raise awareness about GBV, act against it and promote constitutional and social change, there is also a call for more to be done. As organizations, we must respond appropriately and forcefully.
Advanced Health he has, for example, developed protocols and best practices regarding statement-taking, survivor support and trauma counseling. That’s not enough, as we’ve seen in the news making headlines. The university’s hand is forced as the power to act rests with authorized security forces like the SAPS.
Universities are obliged to provide support by launching awareness campaigns or applications that make it easy to speak or ask. The success of the installation of modules that focus on risky behavior is still being tested, but it can be used for development purposes. The epidemic has brought to the frontline staff and student health. This calls for a significant promotion and strengthening of mental health services, early identification of problems and different interventions aimed at promoting health.
The strictures of our society and political climate persist and prevail in our camps. For example, security services must deal with organized crime and organizations to prevent loss, damage to buildings and protect university assets. South African campuses have become accustomed to student protests that have varied in violence.
The new threat at hand is the planting of weapons of terror on campus. For example, the US has it Several active shooters and he had to develop new ways of resisting it. This includes threat identification, threat situation management and evacuation plans. This should be included in university security plans as well as greater cooperation between the SAPS, the State Intelligence Agency, police forums and other security agencies. This cooperation should reach the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to check students who get letters to study for illogical reasons using the university study center under the pretense that they want to enter the country.
Preventive services at universities had to adapt to rapid changes in society and expand their suite of expertise, skills and services. The aim is to improve efficiency and effectiveness, to reorganize in response to the environment, close cooperation and collaboration within the university and with external actors and to be consistent with the wider strategic goals of the university.
In a climate of shrinking resources, universities will have to dig deep into their coffers for security funding if we are to ensure safety on our campuses. The question that will affect us is, how do we do more with less? DM