It is well established that safety is a key concern for both international students and parents and an issue that weighs heavily in the choice of institution and location for study abroad. A report from Hong Kong, for example, says that incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombings and the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech have made more families reconsider where their students should be going for their education abroad.
These high-profile incidents raise important questions for prospective students and their families with respect to safety issues in the US, the world’s leading international study destination. It is important to note, however, that the US (and its campuses) are still relatively safe. In a ranking of overall crime in 133 countries around the world, the US ranks just 45th – well behind the numbers for many countries sending high numbers of students into the country, including Venezuela (2nd), Nigeria (8th), Brazil (13th), and Mexico (41st), and also well below countries that commonly receive US students going abroad such as South Africa (6th) and Costa Rica (22nd).
Yes means yes
New international students may be taken aback when their US university orientation sessions offer them information on how to correctly ask or give permission for sexual relations. However, the issue has loomed large in the US in recent years.
“Affirmative consent,” whereby the definition of sexual assault and application of violations veers from following prior “no means no” standards to “yes means yes,” is now prescribed by law in California and quickly spreading across hundreds of campuses nationwide.
Schools are paying attention and increasing efforts not just to comply with the law but to also ensure that their campuses and environs are indeed safer. After the University of Southern California saw two separate incidents claim the lives of three Chinese graduate students, university administrators ramped up efforts to secure the campus, which hosts more international students than any other school in the country. In addition to obvious steps such as beefing up interaction with the Los Angeles Police Department and increasing both patrols and camera surveillance, the school also offered a free ride service to reduce pedestrian traffic and implemented more safety training awareness programmes for new students.
Indeed, universities across the country are making efforts to comply with the Clery Act and go beyond that to train their students and raise awareness of safety issues. Virtually every school’s website and orientation materials include campus safety tips such as those offered by Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Common tips include:
- Walk in groups and don’t wear headphones when walking;
- Learn the campus layout and all services provided such as ride services;
- Always lock doors of living quarters and cars;
- Register electronics, bicycles, and other items likely to be targeted for theft.