When students leave for college, it’s natural for family members to be concerned about them.
They’re out of the house and on their own. They’re making their own decisions, meeting new people and having new experiences.
Safety may not be the first thing on their minds.
“In order for young adults to be successful on campus, they need to be responsible and accountable,” says Benjamin Newman, director of public safety at SIU. “We stress safety and security with all of our students. Family members can help by reinforcing these messages.”
Newman says the majority of crimes at SIU are crimes of opportunity. Unlocked residence hall rooms, cars and bikes, as well as items left unattended in public places, can be tempting to would-be thieves.
“Our campus is generally a safe place,” he says. “Our goals are to give students the tools to stay safe and become successful.”
The university’s safe.siu.edu website lists a number of safety resources for students, ranging from tips to avoid theft to the night safety transit program to training that will help them recognize and avoid dating and domestic violence.
The wellness center operated by Student Health Services provides education and information on multiple health-related topics, including stress management and the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
Newman says the perception that alcohol and drugs are a regular part of the college lifestyle is inaccurate.
“Yes, SIU and campuses across the country have some of these issues,” he says. “But most students choose not to drink or engage in other types of behavior that can put themselves and others at risk. Most are responsible and accountable.”
He says SIU does not condone underage drinking or the use of illegal drugs. Those who choose to drink legally need to do so in moderation. Family members should consider talking about the responsible use of alcohol with their students, he adds.
Raising health and safety issues with a student in college can create a difficult balancing act for those back home. How can you protect your students while still giving them space?
As a father of a 16-year-old, Newman says he understands the issues that worry family members.
“I have those same fears. I have that same anxiety,” he says. “I know that my son is responsible. I hope he will do the right thing when he is at college. It’s my responsibility to stay connected to him, not as a shadow, but as a father figure and mentor.”
It’s important to stay in touch with your student, communicating at least once a week, he added. Isolation can be a sign your student is struggling.
“If you are concerned and your student is a resident on campus, reach out to housing,” he says. “Housing personnel can provide an immediate response.”
Saluki Cares is also available to support students dealing with any number of issues.