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Kristina Johnson: Campus Safety Is A SUNY Priority

We know that dropping off your child at college can be one of life’s most heart wrenching moments. Especially the first year, when the campus is still unfamiliar, and your child has yet to make friends. Most parents can’t help but worry. Will my child be ok? Will my child be safe?

At The State University of New York, we want parents to know that SUNY does everything we can to keep every part of our campuses safe, from the large communal spaces to our small private dorm rooms.

Through the years, SUNY has continued to bolster student safety by providing the best training to our university police departments, adopting the latest security technologies and continually improving our safety protocols.

Our university police departments are made up of highly trained law enforcement officers, with the power to enforce all state and local laws, and investigate crimes, while serving the unique needs of a college community. Our officers have received the most sophisticated training they need to do their jobs well.

And like state and local law enforcement agencies, many of our campus police departments are accredited by the state’s division of criminal justice services. That means we meet and exceed expectations, and implement policies that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.

In addition, our campuses feature the most up-to-date security technologies, such as the emergency broadcast systems that notify students of impending emergencies. These systems enable customized messaging, delivered in different modes such as text, email and p-a. And we continue to maintain the blue light emergency phones, which provide immediate access to police when students are in need. These are only the most visible measures we take to keep our campuses safe.

Along with that, SUNY is taking the lead on bringing awareness to other forms of violence that are sometimes less apparent, but equally dangerous, such as interpersonal and sexual violence, and the over consumption of alcohol that often goes along with it.

Promoting campus safety means raising awareness of sexual and interpersonal violence, and having a frank conversation about these difficult topics. For the last two years, SUNY has taken the lead on preventing intimate violence with a program called the Sexual and Interpersonal Violence and Prevention Response Course, or SPARC.

SPARC is an online course that encompasses important training requirements stipulated by state and federal laws such as Title IX and New York’s groundbreaking Enough is Enough legislation, launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The goal of SPARC is to raise student awareness of what constitutes interpersonal and sexual violence. It’s designed to help students understand complex issues such as consent, harassment, and sexual misconduct, while empowering them to become active bystanders and advocates for change. In addition, SPARC provides students with local and campus resources should they ever need help. As part of our efforts to constantly improve, this year we added TRAC, a companion online program dedicated to reducing alcohol consumption and helping students manage alcohol use. TRAC stands for training in reducing alcohol consumption. It teaches students about the effects of alcohol, how they can be safe around alcohol, and what to do when friends drink too much.

SUNY believes so deeply in the importance of these training tools that we offer these programs at no cost to any college anywhere that registers for them. And each college can customize SPARC to feature their staff and students, and provide local information and resources.

Since its launch in April 2017, SPARC has gone national and global, with more than 200 colleges around the country and overseas now registered to use it. That means that when SPARC is fully operational, more than 2 million students in our nation’s colleges will hear SPARC’s messages of interpersonal safety and violence prevention.

Those are critical messages in today’s world.

Whether it’s in a dormitory or out in a public space, we simply have no room for acts of violence in any of its ugly forms, anytime, anywhere. That’s why SUNY is leading and committed to strengthening campus safety in every way possible. We want parents to know that we have their children’s backs—and their safety— when they come to a SUNY campus.

Kristina Johnson is the 13th Chancellor of the State University of New York, the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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