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Audit or not campus living safe, officials say

Associate Editor

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 23:02

Residence Life director Joellen Tipton said on-campus housing at Sam Houston State University is safe, despite its safety being called for review in 2013.

Resident hall security and access policies were scheduled to be audited in the 2012-2013 Internal Audit Annual Report, but the audit was never performed. Tipton said she wasn’t aware of the audit or its subsequent cancelation.

Even if the audit was performed, according to Tipton, there wouldn’t be any problems.

“I believe that our halls are very safe, particularly when everything is working the way it is set up and intended,” she said.

Tipton said the biggest problem resident halls face is tailgating, or students holding the door for other people.

Since fall 2007, there have been 19 reported forcible sexual assault offenses on campus, and at least four of them were in resident halls in 2013, according to University Police Department Crime Statistics.

There were three aggravated assaults, 11 simple assaults and three burglaries reported in on-campus residential halls in 2013, according to the police log. The log also showed 13 larceny/theft offences and 10 acts of vandalism. Eight arrests were made for liquor-law violations, 10 were made for drug abuse violations and only one for weapons possession.

SHSU’s crime numbers are far less significant than those of the 11,000-student Stephen F. Austin University.

According to the most recent reported crime statistic publication on the university’s website, there was only one forcible sexual assault in 2011 in on-campus housing. However, in that same year, there were 18 simple assault offenses, 12 burglaries, 36 larcenies/thefts and 21 acts of vandalism. There were two arrests for liquor-violation, eight arrests for drug violation and two arrests for weapons possession.

Tipton said she associates the incidents at SHSU to residents breaking residence life’s policies.

“The biggest threat is when students make poor decisions or do not follow the policies [and] procedures that are set in place to keep them safe,” Tipton said. “Two specific and very common examples are students leaving their room but not locking their door behind them, and inviting someone into their room who they just met or barely know, perhaps a “friend of a friend,” so they assume the person is OK.”

Tipton said Residence Life is periodically installing cameras in public spaces in the resident halls.

Fines for breaking the rules and procedures laid out by Residence Life range from $50 to $250. Students are advised not to have certain items, such as candles, space heaters, or extension cords, in hopes of a safer housing situation.

Although Tipton said resident halls are safe for students, she also said reflection on current policy is always a good thing.

“That being said, as with anything, there is always room for improvement,” Tipton said. “I believe that it is always beneficial to have policies periodically reviewed to make sure that we are doing what we need to be doing, and that it is effective.”

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