W&L Public Safety works hard to maintain security despite instances of violence nationwide

With incidents of violence at other college campuses, W&L Public Safety works to increase security

Hannah Powell

This week began with yet another outbreak of violence on a college campus. Abdul Artan, a student at Ohio State University, injured 11 students and faculty members on his campus Monday morning, wielding a vehicle and a butcher knife as weapons. Artan was shot and killed by campus police shortly afterwards, and the FBI investigation into his motive remains open.

Although this was not a case of civilian gun violence, it evokes the many other instances of campus attacks in recent years, most of which were carried out with firearms. In addition, the massive shootings in Charleston and Miami in the past two years have raised social and political tensions regarding how to address gun violence.

At Washington and Lee, opinions on how best to address gun safety vary widely. Out of 200 voluntary student respondents to survey, 59 percent feel that restrictions on gun ownership should be expanded, and another 17 percent favor banning them altogether. Twenty-one percent are comfortable with current federal policies regarding firearms, and only 3 percent think that no restrictions and limitations are necessary.

Despite the spectrum of opinions regarding nationwide legislation, the responses about safety and comfort in attending W&L were remarkably cohesive. Eighty-two percent said that they have never or rarely felt at all unsafe on campus.

“I definitely feel safe on W&L’s campus, and I think that we have a small enough, tight-knit enough community that I hope no one would ever feel ostracized enough to be violent.,” said one student of this phenomenon. “I cannot fathom that happening.”

The Public Safety program is, of course, largely responsible for the peace of mind of students, faculty and staff at W&L. According to Public Safety Director Ethan Kipnes, the officers continue to adapt their protocol and systems for emergencies to meet modern needs, especially in the wake of incidents at other schools.

In Upper-Division Housing, the blue emergency phones have been installed to provide “an extra layer of safety and security” in the newest area of campus. Each phone is a direct line to public safety and is equipped with a security camera. The phones are placed strategically around the village and parking lots to ensure students are safe and comfortable walking alone, especially after dark.

Public Safety also now uses the LiveSafe iPhone app, which students can use to receive emergency alerts or contact Public Safety quickly if they are in need of assistance.

Kipnes also said that keeping the community happy and comfortable is a high priority for Public Safety. He said the officers all feel that the perceived safety of campus is just as important to maintain as literal safety.

“That’s part of the beauty of this place,” he said. “People feel safe, and they actually are.”

When asked what he felt made the Public Safety program at W&L unique and effective, Kipnes cited the close, trusting relationship between officers and students and faculty.

“We are an important part of the community and feel very connected to Washington and Lee as a whole,” he said. “The majority of folks here know us, trust us, and understand our responsibility to keep them safe. Everyone here is willing to work hard to ensure the ideals and expectations of the W&L community continue to be met.”