Colleges and research institutions are usually believed to be the birthplace of new technologies. Numerous inventions and discoveries are coming out of laboratories all around the world every year. To enhance the study and research environment, colleges are dedicated to providing students with access to these new technologies. On the one hand, the technologies offer students a great deal of convenience in terms of completing their academic and research requirements. On the other hand, some of them expose students to violence and are used to perpetrate violence. Additionally, various technologies are useful in responding to violent incidents when they occur and, in some cases, preventing such events from occurring.
Most colleges in United States offer Internet access to students in both classrooms and dormitories. Students can easily log into the campus network with their own Net ID and password, which are given to them when they enter college. Given the convenience of Internet and computer access, students tend to spend a large proportion of their time on the Internet.
One of the main attractions online is video games. Many of these games are violent in nature, and incorporate sexist and stereotypical images into their characters. Because college students generally reach the adult age during their matriculation, they are no longer restricted by the ratings assigned to violent games and can access any content they like. As consoles become more powerful and graphics become more realistic, the virtual world gets closer to the reality. Some players who are attracted to this world become obsessed with it. Rather than having players be the passive recipients of human violence, violent video games involve players in performing violence in the virtual world; in this way, they may promote a higher level of aggression among players.
In addition to violent video games, hundreds of websites can be found that display images and videos of stomach-turning violence. Screaming, cursing, beatings, stabbings, shootings, and smack-downs can be found easily online. Because college students can easily avoid the college-imposed filters intended to prevent them from accessing such sites, they have no trouble viewing the images of dead, dying, and mangled human beings.
Network-related security poses an ongoing challenge in the university setting. College students are not always careful about what they post on social networking sites such as Facebook, and may behind all kinds of clues that could identify specific people, including their names, their phone numbers, their birthdays, and even their precise locations. Other publicly listed information is easy to obtain online, making identity theft a growing problem on college campuses.
Meanwhile, advanced technology has also strengthened college students’ ability to defend themselves and fight against violence on their campuses. A review of 20 reports and recommendations for colleges and universities recommended a number of safety measures, including the development of an emergency notification system. Colleges in the United States generally set up campus email service systems, in which each student is provided with an email account. College administrators can then send out information to each student via email, such as when there is a threat on campus. Campus police can also send out crime notices to inform students about particular types of dangers as well as ways to avoid becoming a victim. As more students have obtained cell phones that can receive both calls and text messages, colleges and universities have included phone or text messaging as part of their notification systems. Companies such as Omnilert provide this type of service to colleges and universities. Many colleges and universities added more sophisticated notification systems after the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech has been criticized because university officials waited two hours after the shootings began to send the first email notification to students; this statement merely warned students to be cautious and did not instruct them to stay away from the classrooms–even though shooter Seung-Hui Cho had not yet been apprehended at that point. Other notification systems work through intercoms, with messages being be broadcast to specific areas or even to an entire campus.
Technology can also help solve crimes on campus. Some of the same companies that offer notification services have developed electronic tip lines, where students can anonymously submit information about incidents on campus. The popularity of video recording and digital cameras has helped campus officials to capture the details of many crime scenes. Jamal Albarghouti, a Virginia Tech student who witnessed the shooting in 2007, used his cell phone to record the dramatic shooting. Such videos can be used as evidence in court, as can videotapes made from campus-based surveillance cameras.
After the rash of school shootings in the 1990s, many schools installed metal detectors. Most colleges and universities did not, realizing that it would be impossible to use them effectively on their sprawling campus grounds and that they would contrast with the philosophical openness and freedom of campus communities. Additionally, most of the task forces and study groups that have made recommendations for campus security have not suggested greater use of metal detectors. In lieu of metal detectors, most colleges use some type of secure key, often called a prox card, that allows authorized persons to gain access to residence halls. These keys can also be used to track who has entered and left the building. Although the use of this technology has begun to spread to other buildings, most academic halls remain easily accessible, especially during daytime hours. Even so, some oppose using these technologies, as they believe campuses will be viewed as fortresses, not arenas for free movement and thought. Additionally, the most advanced technologies are very expensive and, therefore, are cost-prohibitive for many campuses. Whatever measures are considered, campus officials are urged to be cautious, and to ensure that their reaction to criminal incidents or the fear of them does not unduly impinge on students’ rights.
- Anderson, C. (2004). An update on the effects of playing violent video games. Journal ofAdolescence, 27, 113-122.
- Fox, J., & Savage, J. (2009). Mass murder goes to college: An examination of changes on college campuses after Virginia Tech. American Behavioral Scientist, 52, 1465-1485.
- Rawe, J. (2007, April 16). Can we make campuses safer? Time.
- Schaffhauser, D. (2010, October 28). E2campus bundles campus emergency safety services. Campus Technology.