blue light

People non-affiliated to JMU may pose a problem to campus safety at night.  

While the JMU campus serves as a place for students to attend classes and meetings, work and for some — live, it’s not closed off solely for students and faculty.

Closing the inter-campus gates during the school week works as an effective way to keep cars from freely using the roads to cut through, however, people can still park on the outskirts of campus — many people and their families use the open space at JMU to run, take their kids to play or walk their dogs. This upholds JMU’s reputation being a friendly and welcoming place for all people, regardless of whether or not they’re a student. It also allows for anyone to enter campus at any time of the day and week without giving JMU much ability to control or keep track of these people and their intentions.

What starts out as a peaceful place in the heart of Harrisonburg for residents to spend their time can quickly lend itself to more dangerous situations, with a handful of local citizens taking advantage of the vast number of college-aged young adults present on campus at any given time.

Social media has recently been full of students posting about different strangers and individuals spotted around campus or at places affiliated with JMU such as the campus buses. While many of these people might not have harmful or dangerous intentions, something about their behavior caused these students to feel uneasy and reach out to spread the word in an effort to keep their fellow peers safe.

Because of this, it has become a normal occurrence for students to automatically assume that people they encounter across campus — especially during early hours of the morning or late at night — might pose a threat to them. While there are many different options students can take advantage of around campus such as SafeRides and the blue light system, the situation goes way beyond this.

College is what people label as their home for the four years they attend it, and no one deserves to feel unsafe in the place they call home. Feeling the need to call someone or alert help when walking around campus alone isn’t fair. JMU has taken many measures to ensure students’ safety, but there’s no definite way to make sure these methods remain useful and effective year round.

Especially during times such as finals when students are walking around campus late at night and early in the morning in order to trek to the library or grab a midnight studying snack. Students shouldn’t have to feel unsafe getting around campus at night simply because there are people not affiliated with JMU on campus, making those who belong there uncomfortable.

It’s not fair to completely ban those who don’t attend JMU or work there from entering campus, but it’s also not fair to subject students and staff to the anxieties that come with not feeling safe at the hands of people who don’t necessarily belong there.

The world has been impacted enough by those who have dangerous intentions, and college campuses are no exception. Everything that can be done to limit the possibility of crime on campus should be done, and that might start with paying closer attention to the people walking around JMU.

Eliza MacKnight is a sophomore psychology major. Contact Eliza at macknieg@dukes.jmu.edu.