No simple answers for violence in higher education communities.

June 5, 2013

Todd Piett

I recently read a thought provoking blog entry “Is Violence Affecting Chicago’s Higher Education Community?” on the Chicago Now blog which made me think about the cost of violence to the education experience. As parents we entrust our children to schools where we believe they will be safe and experience the richness that college provides. Violence as a background reality alters that experience for everyone.

At the bottom of the blog entry Shimerprez asks:

“And what is higher education (reified here, I know) doing about it?”

“There are weeks and months focused on anti-violence work on campuses, such as the Enough is Enough Campaign (for information, see NASPA’s site). There are performances of Eve Ensler’s work that work against violence against women. There are presidential signatures on petitions or letters. And, a presidential Gun Violence Center at Emerson College. There are steps.”

But there must be more. (emphasis mine) For, violence makes education more difficult to attain. It taints our society. And education is, after all, intended to be for the common good.”

There must be more. There is.

Technology has advanced to a point where no student should ever be frightened and “alone”.  From the persistent and nagging threat of bullying to acquaintance assaults, technology can improve communication between a network of individuals who can help.

Tools that enhance individual safety and leverage smart phones and other technologies are available. Rave Guardian and Rave EyeWitness are two examples. But tools such as these are part of the answer. Our colleges and universities need to expand their thinking about how to protect their students beyond traditional methods.

We need to transform the acceptable norm to be where the “date rape” is looked at as a vile crime and bullying is seen as the cowardly act it is.  It’s about using everything at our disposal, from technology to the bully pulpit and position of authority into which school administrators have been placed, to modify behaviors in such a way that they carry over not only from the higher education experience but into the students contribution to society.

There is no quick or easy answer to violence in our communities. However, the first step we owe students is to  continually educate ourselves and our communities about new and emerging anti-violence tools and methods.

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