With the start of the semester, students begin navigating their academic and social lives independently – with independence comes greater exposure to a variety of new safety risks.
Two organizations on campus exist to reduce these safety risks and embolden students to live responsible lives. The Center for Health Education and Wellness and UT Public Safety alongside UT Police Department both work to facilitate safety on campus.
Michele Dorsainvil, CHEW interim director, emphasized that the mission of CHEW is to empower students to thrive, in relation to the 8 dimensions of wellness defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
With students in mind, CHEW’s approach to safety does not include forcing them to follow strict policies.
“All of the work we do around substance use, the goal is to empower students to make responsible decisions,” Dorsainvil said. “So, it is not to tell students what to do, but it is to empower them.”
CHEW wants to help students build individual decision-making skills that will help students make responsible choices in the long-term.
Dorsainvil mentioned that CHEW has active programs on campus, and there will be several events in the upcoming months. October is Substance Abuse Prevention Month and will include a series of events that cover topics such as substance avoidance, consent and recovery.
CHEW’s Safe Fall Break event will happen on October 14, and it is geared at promoting safety and consent during fall break.
“The intention of Safe Fall Break is to empower students to have a safe fall break with activities that may not involve substances,” Dorsainvil said. “We are going to talk about what other things you could do during the break time — as well as consent and being an active bystander.”
Being an active bystander is a big part of enhancing safety on campus. Safety depends on bystanders making responsible reports if they observe a situation that can be dangerous to students or themselves.
Aside from personal wellness safety, the campus is also looked after by the UT Police Department. The public information officer for UT Public Safety and UT Police Department Lola Alapo explained that the police department on campus is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to facilitate student safety and safety on campus.
UTPD offers several programs to promote campus safety.
“UTPD regularly offers students, faculty and staff a variety of education and outreach programs, including alcohol awareness, personal safety and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD),” Alapo said. “These courses are available free of charge. … The campus community may request them at any time.”
Getting involved and helping campus safety can be as simple as raising self-awareness and attending programs offered by UTPD to increase personal safety.
The largest crime on campus, according to Alapo, is theft. Operation ID is a new initiative aimed at combating theft or lost items and is easily-accessible online through the UTPD website.
“Operation ID is a way for Vols to register their valuables with UT Police, so we can get it back to them if and when they are found,” Alapo said.
This resource allows students to keep track of the items they have lost. It will also hopefully reduce misplaced items and return stolen ones to their owners.
As for physical resources on campus, there are blue light phones placed strategically around the campus area in order for fast police assistance. Also, there is a mobile app called LiveSafe that can be downloaded.
This app gives the downloader easy access to on-campus resources like the UT Police Department, the Student Health Center and Facilities Services.
“Vols can submit tips … using texts, pictures, videos and audio files. The app’s most popular feature is its SafeWalk feature, which allows users to have a contact virtually accompanying them while they’re walking or driving,” Alapo said.
UT Police exists on campus for overall university safety – accessing UTPD’s and CHEW’s resources and educational programs are easy and can make a difference.