A new campus-safety tool for colleges is being touted by some administrators and experts as a unique strategy for helping every higher-education institution understand and carry out best practices on issues like alcohol, hazing, and sexual violence.
The effort is part of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative which made its debuted at George Mason University.
The self-assessment tool is free for colleges, and involves a series of confidential surveys that cover nine "focus areas." The alcohol-and-other-drugs survey asks, for instance, whether parents are notified when a student violates a college's alcohol policies, and whether campus police departments collaborate with local law enforcement in combating drunken driving.
Once at least 100 colleges have completed the assessments, aggregate data will be compiled from the responses, divided up by institutional size and type, and published on the project's website as a comparison tool for colleges, as well as students and parents.
According to Chronicle of Higher Education, the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, established in the aftermath of the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, has sponsored the effort, which began to take shape three years ago. A team of 10 campus-safety and legal experts volunteered dozens of hours to work on the project.
Officials at several colleges that participated in a pilot of the program say the tool makes a lot of sense. They called it relatively easy to use, free, and helpful. If a college signs up, its staff members in the relevant safety fields — such as an alcohol-abuse counselor or the police chief — complete that particular survey. A senior administrator oversees the effort.
What remains to be seen is how much of an impact the tool will have in the broader landscape of higher education. Dozens of consulting firms already offer colleges checklists and suggestions on, for instance, meeting campus-safety benchmarks for combating alcohol abuse or complying with mounting federal and state regulations on sexual assault.
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education