By: Drew Satter, M.Ed., MBA, Assistant Director, Housing and Residence Life
Transitioning to off-campus living after living in the residence halls can be a stark change. There is typically more of a walk, which is especially fun during the snowy, winter months. Many students will have to start cooking for themselves more often and may not be able to utilize the COG like they used to. Living off campus also means that there are probably fewer people living in close proximity and fewer (if any) staff around to be watchful of student safety. Safety is something that should be taken more into account when living off campus.
When thinking about personal safety, it’s good for students to know some helpful tips. First, many students leave their door unlocked when living in the residence halls, even though we don’t recommend it. This is an especially poor idea when living off campus, since your student won’t want people wandering into their space. It’s a good idea for your student to be communicative with their roommates so that they know what their roommates are up to and when they’re coming and going. When walking around at night, it’s best for students to go places with others, leave headphones in their backpacks, and to have their phones handy, just in case anything comes up.
Candles are sometimes allowed in off-campus housing, so while they can be a nice addition or smell to a living environment, they require attention and should never be left unattended. Alcohol use for those who live off campus – 21 years old or not – is something to continue to be aware of. There is much discussion and education about alcohol when students live on campus for the two-year residency requirement, that can be forgotten when moving off campus. Encourage your student to have a plan for the night if they go out drinking, which can include how many drinks they want to have that night, alternating water with alcohol, and leaving with the group or person they came with.
Bike theft is something that students should be especially aware of when considering property safety. Bikes are typically quite easy to steal, especially if they aren’t guarded by a heavy-duty lock. Additionally, bikes are easy for thieves to sell to others and this is a common crime around college campuses, due to the influx ofmbikes each academic year with the incoming class of first-year students. Be sure to use a U-lock as well as another lock to lock up a bike and it might be wise to bring a bike indoors during the months of inclement weather. Once the on-campus residents have first choice for bike lockers on campus (typically after the first four weeks), off-campus folks can request a bike locker. This is a nice way for students to keep bikes both out of the weather and safely secured. Students can also register their bikes with Campus Security. In the event that their bike is stolen and recovered, registering a bike makes it more likely that the bike can be reunited with the owner.
I hope you find these tips useful for facilitating conversations with your student about safety while living off campus. There are many resources at Gonzaga and, even though students are living off campus, they are still our students. Our resources include the Center for Cura Personalis, Housing and Residence Life, Campus Safety and Security, plus the typical police or crisis response resources that residents of Spokane are entitled to. Overall, we want our students to be safe and the best way to do that is to be aware and to report if there is anything suspicious. By working as a community, we can keep the Zag experiencena safe and positive one.