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Safe at home? Evaluating assumptions of security.

At the Carletonian, we share a wall with the campus security office. One of the first things they asked us upon return from spring break was, “Why don’t students lock their doors here?” The practices that are acceptable and are considered safe here at Carleton are not necessarily safe in the real world. As students, we have become accommodated to our lifestyle at Carleton, in the comfortable town of Northfield. Frankly, most of us take security on campus for granted.

What do we mean by security? Of course the term implies physical security; the ability to leave your computer alone in the library, or feeling safe as we walk home across campus after a late night. It is important to remember that these circumstances are exceptional when compared to our peers at bigger universities, and certainly within the larger world. We do not presume to speak for everybody at Carleton, but instead allude to the generalized experience on campus.

In the last week, several robberies have been reported to campus security. These events have occurred when students have neglected to take the recommended security precautions, such as simple suggestions as locking one’s door. To an outsider, this may seem like a simple habit to form. Yet at Carleton, we have become comfortable under the guise of false security.

We trust that our fellow students will not take advantage of our confidence in the college and the general community. But in light of the recent events, we must be aware of the fact that Northfield, like any city or even friendly, small town, is vulnerable. This extends beyond petty crime and into more serious situations.

While it is a privilege to feel comfortable in our community, Carleton students often neglect to recognize the serious dangers that such an assumed sense of security can provide. We have previously discussed how college drinking habits have the tendency to evolve into negative practices in the “real world.” Likewise, the practices associated with partying can translate into carelessness; both inside and outside of this small, “Carleton bubble.”

If we are going to be specific to college students, we can apply “carelessness” to drinking and sexual behavior. For example, going home with a new acquaintance at Carleton is significantly different than leaving with a stranger from a city bar. Students take for granted the common denominator that we share with our peers at our school.

While the “real world” offers a greater threat of danger than campus living, students must also be aware that such assumptions of security about classmates also prove dangerous. Date rape, acquaintance rape and various forms of sexual violence can and do occur. Furthermore, students often endanger themselves through unsafe drinking habits. Frequent “blacking out” can only aggravate bad situations, and proves dangerous in itself. Unlocked doors are a mere symptom of these presumed ideals of absolute security.

Carleton has given us the confidence to believe that our opinions will be heard, both on the administrative level and within the general student body. We emulate the social values of a democracy, and accordingly appreciate these promises socially and politically. But we should understand that our world does not always represent the reality that we experience in our smaller community.

The recent robberies are certainly alarming; yet the community should not be shocked that such events can occur here. Rather, the student population must be aware of the even greater dangers that we could potentially face, both here on campus and undoubtedly in the larger world. While we should not be fearful of our daily lives and should learn to enjoy a sense of security, we must also learn to reconcile our ideals with reality.

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