Safety In Numbers: Improving the University of Texas’ Security Climate Through the Control and Transmission of Information
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Campus safety and security is a concern that challenges colleges across the country. This is true also for The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). With two recent homicides, a growing awareness of rampant sexual assault, and the political polarization of the student body, the dialogue surrounding UT Austin and its safety environment has become especially urgent and energetic. Interview with campus administrators suggested that one of the most effective ways to create a secure student body is to educate its constituents so that they can make informed decisions about their safety. The purpose of this study was to investigate ways that UT Austin can enhance its ability to create that informed community. The topic was divided into three categories, information, communication, and transparency that were analyzed individually. The first section investigates what information UT Austin is disseminating, how the data are formatted, how the information is contextualized, and what data are often inaccessible to the public. Delaying or withholding information degrades administrative transparency, which can erode student feelings of safety. The final section investigates ways that the University improve that relationship through performance analysis and feedback solicitation. To conduct this analysis, research on campus safety and security from 2000 to 2017 and interviews with campus administrators were synthesized along with a dataset comparing twenty peer institutions across a series of performance metrics. The results indicate that UT Austin currently has substantial growth potential in regards to its safety environment, and the study concludes by suggesting recommendations for the University that include publishing crime data in more open formats, increasing student involvement in campus security, streamlining and formatting online resources, and ensuring the recency of security information.