Belmont’s Campus Security is working to be more visible and engaged with students following the settlement of a sexual assault case from 2008.
The case involved a former Belmont student suing the university for allegedly inadequate security measures that contributed to her being raped. While the books are closed on both the incident and the suit, Chief of Campus Security Pat Cunningham says the job of improving on-campus safety is never finished.
“Security is an ongoing process of assessing systems. If Belmont strives to be an outstanding institution, we need to be outstanding in all areas, including physical security,” Cunningham said.
One way Campus Security is working to get closer to students is through a new honorary residence program, said Coordinator of Security Programs Kayla Jerome. Jerome is a former residence director and says she wants to be more intentional about programs within the residence halls.
“Each officer will be assigned to a different residence hall where students will get to know them beyond the badge,” Jerome said. “If students get to know the officers, then they’ll feel comfortable coming to them in all instances, not just reactionary ones.”
Belmont is also ramping up its R.A.D program, said Jerome. R.A.D, which stands for Rape Aggression Defense, is a women-only safety course for defensive techniques offered by Belmont.
Previously, R.A.D was only been offered once per semester, but starting this year the course will take place multiple times with different time options to accommodate more students, Jerome said.
However, even with the new safety programs, Cunningham said a large part of creating a safe campus environment falls to students themselves. This includes common-sense decisions like walking in groups, staying in well-lit areas at night and locking dorm rooms.
“Would-be criminals often get deterred just by seeing groups or even the emergency phones we have on campus,” he said. “But the two big things to remember are to look out for yourself and for others.”
The job of Campus Security is first and foremost to serve the students, but students need to know about and use the resources available to them, said Jerome.
“Don’t hesitate to come to us. If a student is victimized, we want them to tell someone. We want them to know there are people who believe in them,” she said.