Upon first learning how to ride a bike, before even grasping the handle bars, a parent securely fastened a helmet around our heads.
“Safety first,” they would say.
The mantra would continue to follow us as we grew older — our first high school party, our first time driving a car, and eventually, our first day at Lehigh.
As all college students do, we came to Lehigh to learn and grow as individuals, to become a part of a larger community and to try new things. As our parents sent us off, they crossed their fingers hoping that after a lifetime of “safety first,” the message would stick, hoping that in between the endless sea of new life experiences, safety will be in the forefront of our minds.
Lehigh has had around 90 reported counts of larceny over the past three years, and the numbers are only continuing to rise.
Every day, it seems, another student’s off-campus house has been broken into by someone yielding a knife or other weapon. While students continue to be virtually unharmed physically, many students are living in fear of the next break-in.
Although both the Lehigh and Bethlehem Police departments have tended to the various break ins and ensured that students are compensated for what is stolen, the crux of the issue remains unchanged.
Upon every reported break-in, the university sends out an email reminding students of the importance of locking their doors, essentially implying that burglaries only happen when students leave their doors unlocked. While idealistic, off-campus residents have found this not to be true. Instead, these residents find that many of the doors to older homes can be opened strictly by force, even when the doors are locked.
This justifiably leaves students and families questioning — is Lehigh a safe place to go to school?
Off-campus housing is not regulated by the university itself, and as a result, it is not technically Lehigh’s responsibility to provide security to off-campus residents who consist of predominantly seniors and graduate students. But because off-campus living is the primary housing option for a quarter of Lehigh students, it should be the responsibility of the university to ensure generalized, functioning security systems for all student residencies, both off and on campus.
Lehigh students prioritize their own safety, but how greatly does Lehigh prioritize the safety of its students?
As the school continues to delve into projects that hope to improve the university, safety should be at the top of the list.
Students must use their Lehigh University identification cards to get into their respective dorms, but unlike many other schools, Lehigh does not monitor who enters or exits its buildings, which potentially allows non-residents to simply follow a student with an ID inside. Following in the path of many comparable universities, Lehigh should employ trained security guards at the entrance of every dorm building, ensuring that only students, guests and authorized personnel can get inside.
Although there is room to grow, Lehigh has made multiple efforts toward increased safety over the past decade. Since implementing the blue light system, which allows for students in potentially dangerous situations to immediately contact emergency services, Lehigh has also added T.R.A.C.S., a late-night bus service, and most recently Hawk Watch, an app that connects students to safety resources at the touch of a button.
Despite these on-campus efforts, student safety is still a consistent issue. While Lehigh is evidently making an effort to keep students safe, there is undoubtedly more that can be done. As Lehigh continues its Path to Prominence plans and tuition continues to rise, a significant portion of the money raised needs to go to ensuring that every student feels safe living at Lehigh.