Lehigh is a private university. However, the physical campus itself is open to the general public, which may leave some students wondering what steps are being taken to assure their safety on campus.
Lehigh University Police Department chief Edward Shupp said all of the university’s residence halls require Lehigh identification cards to access the buildings. Other academic and administrative buildings are open to the general public during business hours. Access to these buildings after hours is only available to faculty and staff members, and others who have card access.
Shupp said Lehigh is an open campus, and certain buildings, such as the libraries, remain open to the public through late hours of the night.
He said the physical openness of the campus is because of its location along public roads. Shupp said according to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, public roads cannot be closed and the ability to close off a university to the general public is dependent upon its location in the community.
“All the roads that go through campus are public roads, so they cannot be gated off,” Shupp said.
LUPD can close off certain roads for safety precautions because of heavy pedestrian traffic on the Hill. Shupp said entrances to the Hill are gated for a few hours on most Friday and Saturday nights.
On these nights, LUPD closes Upper Sayre Park Road. Shupp said a patrol car waits at the bottom of the road as a safety measure for pedestrians.
The facilities on Mountaintop and Goodman campuses are also available to the general public, although the university can close these campuses off to the public as needed. Goodman Campus is often open for sporting and other external events.
Shupp said LUPD monitors all entering vehicles on Mountaintop and Goodman Campus with cameras. Security is increased for major events, such as for the Lehigh-Lafayette football game.
Despite efforts to promote campus safety, some students, including Kaylee Duggan, ’19, still fear the physical openness of Lehigh’s campus.
“The only safe places are dorms and campus housing,” Duggan said.
Shupp emphasized the importance of students using LUPD as a safety tool. He said students should take advantage of safety programs such as the escort service and read safety reminders, bulletins and social media posts from LUPD.
“The key thing when it comes to safety is people have to take some common sense tools upon themselves,” Shupp said. “The police can’t stop crimes, but everybody working together can.”
Shupp said theft is possible on campus and can happen if the necessary precautions are not taken. He said everyone must work together and take advantage of the safety tools made available to them.
Lehigh is also working to promote campus safety through Student Senate’s safety committee.
“Senate’s safety committee this year is trying to set up new policies and programs as well as incentivize methods that promote the community’s safety,” wrote Maria Castro, ’18, the chair of the safety committee, in an email.
Castro said the safety committee hopes to install a system that incorporates the blue light system for off-campus areas. The committee will work with the Interfraternity Council and the Lehigh administration to change the university’s social policy to further improve campus safety.
Other projects in the works, Castro wrote, are tackling the issue of library theft, hosting a Thanksgiving event with LUPD, collaborating with Senate’s transportation committee to make TRACS more accessible and writing guides for living off-campus.
“Overall, our committee hopes to be able to accomplish this and much more in order to make our community feel like Lehigh is a safe place,” Castro wrote.