How Safety Influences Social Life at Manhattan College

by Christine Nappi & Jilleen Barrett, Features Editor & Asst. A&E Editor

In light of the recent events that have happened in the community surrounding Manhattan College and on campus, conversations around safety have been all the buzz. Now more than ever, students are taking safety into consideration when making plans for the weekend; however, taking action to stay safe may actually increase students’ choices to be social.

Many students socialize in popular off campus locations as a way to have fun, relieve stress or to make the most of their college experience. Now, some may sacrifice their social lives in order to feel safe.

“I still do feel safe myself but I do think that the area is taking a turn for the worse, especially with the recent incidents,” senior Matthew Rodriguez said. “As far as socialization goes, safety may affect a handful of students who are already naturally afraid to go out with their friends.”

Students may choose to socialize out of fear that something dangerous could occur. The college’s location in the Bronx, a borough with an unsafe reputation, already gives students something to worry about. Rodriguez describes that when first coming to college he was advised to be mindful of his surroundings.

“I’m sure there are students who don’t believe the safety down by the one train stop is sufficient, preventing them from having social experiences at Last Stop, Fontenova or any other location on broadway,” Rodriguez said.

A prime time when students feel like their safety is threatened is when traveling back to campus alone. The close proximity of popular off campus bars may put students under the impression that they can get back to their dorm without assistance, yet Rodriguez claims that going anywhere alone in this area has never been safe.

Joy Donnelly, a junior living in Overlook Manor, notes that the recent safety threats have taken a toll on student’s social lives. She claims that the “buddy-system” should be in effect now more than ever.

“It definitely makes you go places less. I won’t walk anywhere alone,” Donnelly said. “That’s gone on forever but recently it’s like no, you can’t walk 15 feet alone.”

Public safety advises students who are feeling unsafe to travel in big groups of people, which can combat the dangers of being alone. Rodriguez claims that finding a group of friends to socialize with can go a long way.

“Being social can influence your safety a ton,” Rodriguez said. “Traveling in groups when walking to the party and home from the party is the best way to stay safe over the years I’ve lived here.”

Manhattan College encourages students to stay safe with this graphic. CHRISTINE NAPPI / THE QUADRANGLE

Donnelly is particularly concerned with safety within the dorms. After the Overlook incidents, Donnelly claims that not all locks in OV have been updated like the school said would happen, but she generally appreciates the steps the college has taken thus far. Donnelly still thinks there is more work the school can do to help her feel safer in her dorm.

“At a certain point the safest I felt was probably my freshman year, in Jasper with no security for some reason,” Donnelly said. “Even though they keep stepping [the security] up, it doesn’t feel like it.”

Although being around others can improve safety concerns in some areas, it may not solve them completely. According to Caroline Shea, who serves as the speaker of the Jasper Senate, student government and public safety have been actively working to ensure safety amongst the student body.

“I’ve been involved in meetings with various different offices and departments to see what we can do to support and help people … to find out what public safety is doing, not just for students … but also for faculty and staff who might feel uncomfortable in parking lots or going to and from classes, especially from South campus to main campus,” Shea said.

Shea also described how she hopes the presence of Blue Light systems on campus increases, as a way to increase safety.

On Tuesday, March 3, all students received an email from public safety with an update on these issues. The email addressed issues on security on campus, more specifically near Overlook Manor. The email read: “Our Public Safety staff will continue to be in regular communication with the NYPD as we upgrade security measures in Overlook Manor, with an emphasis on those related to entering and exiting the building.”

Another way students can feel safer around campus is through the Green Dot program. Green Dot is used on various campuses to teach and encourage others how to respond to safety threats. According to studies, Green Dot has lowered power based personal violence, such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking, in schools by 50 percent. Tiffany French, certified Green Dot trainer, brought the program to Manhattan in 2015.

“Studies have shown that people who are trained in bystander intervention are more likely to actually intervene when they see something happening,” French said. “I think it dovetails our Lasallian mission as well since it encourages respect for all persons, and an inclusive community.”

In French’s five years of working with Green Dot, she has trained 1,500 people in bystander intervention. After each session, she administers an anonymous survey asking how confident students feel to intervene, and 90 percent of respondents say “I would get someone to help or intervene myself.”

Training for Green Dot is voluntary, yet French is willing to work with students to accommodate their needs. She believes that Green Dot training can go a long way in making students feel safe in social settings, and around campus in general.

Green Dot is one of the many ways students can feel safer through learning how to be there for others in a dangerous situation. Aside from the program, French finds that the college community as a whole can ensure safety amongst the student body. The social aspects of the tight knit community contribute to students feeling safe when socializing.

“To me, that’s a community that I want to be a part of and many students agree when we pose the question,” French said. “That is always the beauty of Manhattan College, is that it is a small place with a lot of people who are invested in the well-being of those around them.”

However students choose to stay safe – whether it be walking in groups, participating in Green Dot training, locking doors or advocating for more administrative help – it is important that the community bands together to increase safety.

“I feel mostly safe,” Shea said. “I feel a little bit less safe, but I do know that we live in a city and these are things that sadly happen on college campuses… I do know strides are being made and they aren’t just sweeping this under the rug, they are actually taking this into consideration, but there’s a lot more we can do.”