May 22, 2019 | 66° F

On using social media to keep yourself safe, aware

Opinion Column: Digital Canvas

From the day we apply to college, to the day we graduate, a major priority when it comes to picking your home for the next four years is safety. Having campus police, safe surroundings and resident assistants on constant duty are concerns that both students and parents have. Students at universities small or large, private or public, are always reluctant to venture through campus alone after the sun goes down — and with good reason. On Nov. 2, President Obama visited the Rutgers—Newark campus to focus all of our attention on the need for reform the criminal justice system. But in order to do that, he needed to first recognize the overtly dangerous crime problem in the school’s area. To some extent, Rutgers—New Brunswick needs to recognize this too — not just around campus, but within the school as well. We face some of the same crime problems as Newark, with robberies and assaults, and our attention needs to be drawn to this somehow.

Of course, New Brunswick is not running rampant with robbers and murderers, but the frequency of crimes is fairly above average. This is a town full of lively college students, and it’s not revered for its public safety, which is unfair to us. Students lack the confidence that comes with a safe and secure campus since many live in neighborhoods mixed in with the general population of New Brunswick. Within just a week’s time, you are bound to hear the sirens of police pass through town at least a dozen times. It’s an inevitable and unfortunate occurrence, not only at this University, but on most college campuses. Tuition at this institution is too high to have our well-being and lives be put at such a high risk. In lieu of the most recent acts of violence at the University, it has become difficult to feel a sense of ease when venturing through the campuses. First, us students need to be in the loop and more informed of threatening circumstances. And second, we need to use the information we learn to keep others informed. Social media is a useful resource in doing so: If we can use our various networking systems to see what Kim Kardashian has been up to, then we can definitely use it keep each other safe here at Rutgers.

As a junior living off campus a bit away from the beaten path, I need something to make me feel like I’m going to be out of harm’s way. Now that the clocks have turned back, I find myself walking home at 6 p.m. in the dark with my pepper spray in hand. A simple answer could be to live on campus, but for rising juniors or seniors, it’s nearly impossible to get accommodating housing — especially through the lottery system. There are just too many of us, and it’s not practical. It’s necessary that some of us just find housing elsewhere.

This past Monday, while scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a rather long status posted by a friend of mine. He had been robbed and beaten just a block up from where I live. He was hospitalized with a cracked rib. Now, for whatever reason, there was no crime alert sent out about his assault. It is a scary thing to hear about, but I felt lucky to have seen his status and that he felt compelled to warn others. I now know to keep my eyes open a little wider with a friend by my side when walking back from class in the dark. Not only that, but I was able to notify my roommates and friends in the area to keep aware and safe since there was no other way for them to be cautioned. I was informed of the recent stabbing in Mettler Hall by an crime alert text message, and through various Twitter accounts and friends. It pays to always be connected to our iPhones and social networks. About two weeks earlier, I was notified of some gunshots on Hamilton Street through a GroupMe chat. Being well-connected has been essential in keeping me updated and mindful of my surroundings. Although it may not seem apparent, social media can be a great way to notify fellow students of suspicious activity or violent occurrences on school grounds.

So at such a big, bustling University, it’s important to stay informed. Everyone should be connected to the emergency notification system and be signed up to receive email and text alerts. All efforts to raise awareness and safety is imperative for everyone at Rutgers.

Epatia Lilikas is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in English and economics. Her column “Digital Canvas,” runs monthly on Thursdays. 

Epatia Lilikas

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