This week, we distributed NIU’s annual safety and security report as required by federal law. In addition to providing crime statistics, the report also contains information about policies and resources available to students regarding crime prevention and victim advocacy services.
Providing a safe and secure campus and community atmosphere so that research and academic and social pursuits can thrive is the most important function of NIU Police and Public Safety. Over the past year, co-policing efforts with local law enforcement agencies have led to better enforcement of NIU and municipal ordinances, and students are being held accountable for their behavior and living the Northern PACT.
In August, NIU Police created the Community Oriented Policing Strategies (C.O.P.S.) unit, a specialized team dedicated to developing partnerships, identifying crime hot spots and enacting proactive enforcement on campus and in the neighborhoods surrounding NIU. The team also provides crime prevention education and safety presentations to the community. I am proud of their efforts and collaboration with DeKalb Police and other campus and community organizations.
Still, there are safety concerns among some.
The topic of safety has been discussed in the many workshops we’ve held on campus and is one of the keys to building thriving communities. Among the things we have found is that the perception of crime – including gangs and violence – is not matching the reality presented in the data. We will continue to communicate about our initiatives that make our community an even safer place to live and learn.
One such area of emphasis is the prevention of sexual assaults and violence against women. This is an important issue at college campuses across the country as well as our own in addition to society at large.
The NIU Student Association recently signed on as a partner in the national It’s On Us campaign, helping to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something – big or small – to prevent it.
NIU’s safety and security report for the first time includes statistics about domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. I am thankful to NIU Vice President and General Counsel Jerry Blakemore for his work and insights into the challenges of addressing sexual misconduct on college campuses nationwide. This area continues to be a focus of our university as we strengthen our programs.
In July, I announced the formation of a presidential task force, co-chaired by Lesley Rigg and Eric Weldy, to build upon the university’s previous work in sexual assault prevention and Clery Act reporting. That task force will be providing its recommendations to me in the very near future.
My hope is that the national debate, our on-campus discussion and other activities on and off campus will lead to a frank dialogue about the serious issue of violence against women, including sexual violence. Our pledge is to do all we can to prevent such crimes as well as fairly and respectfully deal with the crimes if they occur. But silence will not produce these outcomes. Only through accurate reporting and honest discussions can we tackle this national problem. We encourage victims to step forward, report these crimes and utilize the many campus resources available to them.
NIU has very strong student programs and services available to provide a safe and healthy campus and learning environment, one that challenges and inspires students to be academically and personally successful.