The University of Mississippi
Less than a year ago, Courtland teenager Jessica Chambers was burned alive in what Mississippi law enforcement officials describe as one of the most horrific cases of their time.
Not much is known about what happened to the former high school cheerleader, but officials have concluded that Chambers was most likely not alone during the incident. Some have speculated that the cause was gang or domestic violence.
With Panola County close to Oxford, some have questioned whether or not a similar crime could happen in Lafayette County. With just over 23,000 students currently enrolled at the University of Mississippi, Oxford is home to a large student population with 10 percent more females than males.
Compared to other universities around the country, how does Ole Miss rank when it comes to campus violence? According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, dating and domestic violence on college campuses nationwide is specifically on the rise.
In 2014, the organization conducted a study revealing that more than 50 percent of domestic violence victims were abused by their current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. About 20 percent of college students have reported experiencing dating violence by a current partner, and around 30 percent experienced dating violence by a previous partner.
With violence on the rise at college campuses nationwide, the University of Mississippi stands out as the exception. Not only does Ole Miss have its own campus police force, but the university also has a police station on campus.
This allows the University Police and Campus Safety Department to have an active crime prevention program offering routine presentations for campus residents, as well as faculty and staff. Some of the most popular topics covered during these presentations are domestic violence education and personal safety.
One of newest ways the University of Mississippi promotes awareness of the realities of campus violence is through the Green Dot strategy created by the school’s Violence Prevention Office.
Project Coordinator Lindsey Mosvick said the Green Dot strategy is “a comprehensive approach to violence prevention.” Mosvick believes that an ultimate reduction of violence can be achieved through this program because the Green Dot strategy is unique in that it “capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influence across all socioeconomic levels.”
Mosvick works with Project Director Dr. Bud Edwards to ensure the project’s success. Edwards said the Green Dot model continues to be successful because it “targets all community members as potential bystanders and seeks to engage them through awareness, education and skills practice.”
The Green Dot Strategy is making a difference at the University of Mississippi, but outside the program, there are many older and more widely used resources the school offers to prevent campus violence.
The University Police and Campus Safety Department offers police services, such as 24/7 patrolling and fingerprinting.
The University Police Department also maintains a database for all calls of service through the Computer Aided Dispatch and Records Management System. The system is used to post timely crime alerts as a means to make the Ole Miss community aware of any situation that poses a potential threat to the safety of students, visitors, faculty and staff.
The university’s low number of crime reports and high number of safety precautions are a huge selling point for potential students considering attending Ole Miss. It is nearly impossible to take a tour of the Ole Miss campus without the tour guide mentioning something about the university’s outstanding safety.
Ole Miss Ambassador Payton Klatt said he specifically always makes a point to talk about the emergency blue poles on campus during each and every tour he gives.
“There are about 15 emergency poles scattered around campus in the areas that receive the most traffic,” Klatt said. “If, at any point, a student feels unsafe, they can press the blue button on the pole, and a UPD officer will arrive within 60 seconds.
“I always tell my tour groups about these, because I think it’s reassuring for rising freshman to know that they never truly have to be alone or in a dangerous situation for more than a minute if they come here.”
When horrific events occur in neighboring counties, it is easy to examine the safety of one’s own town.
However, each and every college campus should strive to achieve maximum safety at all times, not just in the midst of tragedy.