Safety at UTC

Campus life for UTC students starts out easy and without fear, until incidents arise that can shift those feelings, but UTC stands firm and full of help.

For juniors Taylor Bowman and Robert Harris, safety was not a concern for them on UTC’s campus. Bowman said, “I would do whatever I wanted on campus, like go to the library late at night if I needed to do some studying or go to the hub to study there or hang out with friends.”  From Harris’ perspective, he said, “I always felt like UTC was a pretty safe place. I always felt pretty comfortable carrying whatever in my wallet and carrying whatever in my backpack.”

Unfortunately, the night of Oct. 4 changed the way Bowman and Harris feel about safety on campus.

While studying that night at the House Ministries’ space called The Hub, which is located on McCallie Avenue across from Patten Chapel, they decided to take a break outside on the patio. There they were joined with two other friends of theirs. Shortly after sitting outside and casually catching up, a suspicious-looking man approached and asked for a cigarette. As soon as he finished his cigarette someplace else, he walked back rather quickly to the boys, pulled out a gun and demanded everyone’s wallets.

Immediately after the man left, Bowman and Harris called the police. When asked how the police responded to the phone call, Bowman said, “The event took place at an off campus location, but kind of in the heart of campus. So it was kind of weird whose jurisdiction it was, but a couple city police officers showed up, within 5 minutes and then the campus police officers showed up probably within 5 to 10 minutes.”

In describing the behavior of the police officers who arrived to the scene, Bowman said, “both city police and campus police were very nice to us. They were telling us it wasn’t out fault and they weren’t pressuring us to do anything, they just asked for our stories and then asked what we wanted to do.”

The police officers handled the incident with care and offered extra assistance to the boys in handling the aftermath of the event. Bowman said, “The campus police officer also told us about how campus outreach programs and the counseling center at UTC can be helpful after experiences like this.”

Since the event, both Bowman and Harris have felt more on edge while spending time on campus. “I now find myself liking to be in my own home after dark or around that time,” Bowman said. “I don’t really like to be on campus or around a sketchy street after dark now. I like to know I am safe in my own house at night time.”

Harris feels a similar way to Bowman.  Harris said, “ever since the event, I haven’t been keeping cash on me, I have been more cautious and seemingly paranoid just in the sense that, I’ll look around a lot when I’m walking, especially by myself, and I generally don’t walk by myself at night.”

This incident is only one of many that occur on UTC’s and many other college campuses. Even though UTC’s website says “the most common crime that occurs on campus is simple theft,” students should always make sure of their surroundings and be prepared for incidents like this one.

UTC campus police act on constant patrol to make sure students are safe at all times. The UTC website says that “The Patrol Services Function is the largest service within the Police Department. Patrol provides the highest level of security and police assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The mission of the UTC Police Department “is to provide professional police services, reduce criminal opportunity and community anxiety while working with faculty, staff, students, and visitors,” states the UTC website.

From the ways that the UTC police department responded to this robbery and to the boys involved in the incident, the campus police officers are here to serve and protect the students of UTC and the college itself.

Not only does the campus police protect the students, but the Counseling and Personal Development Center is here to protect students on a different level.

The Counseling and Personal Development Center is equipped to help students deal with a large variety of issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, adjustment to college, trauma, and many other issues.

For Julie Dembo, a counselor at UTC, she has seen and helped many students deal with numerous college struggles. More specifically, when asked about how the Counseling Center helps students deal with trauma, Dembo said, “we take a psychoeducational approach and teach students this is what happened followed by some typical reactions to trauma. We then hope that they get a better understanding of what is it that they are dealing with and that other people have gone through similar experiences too. Processing what happened, talking with them about the detail if they are ready and when they are ready, and then helping them cope during that difficult time. Sometimes trauma can bring up anxiety, depression and things like that, so we try to figure out what their needs are and how they can best cope with those.”

For Bowman and Harris, the counseling center has been a tremendous help. Harris said, “I went and talked to somebody from the counseling center and they were able to extend academic accommodations for me. They sent a letter to all my teachers and just alerted them of the incident and asked for leniency when it came to attendance, due dates and stuff like that. So they have been super helpful.”

After Harris went to counseling, he encouraged Bowman to go as well. “The Student Outreach program contacted me and gave me a list of people I could contact to talk to if I just needed guidance or just really needed to get anything off my chest,” Bowman said. “They wanted me to know that they were there for me and they wanted me to reach out and respond. I have, and they have been really great.”

Besides the UTC Police Department and the Counseling Center, there are other safety accommodations for students as well. For example, UTC offers an alert system which “is a messaging system that allows UTC to communicate with members of the campus community quickly in the event of an emergency,” states the UTC website.

Also, there are multiple poles called Blue Light Phones where someone can just press the button and be connected with Campus Police in moments where safety issues arise. Harris confirms this by saying, “UTC offers a ride home service where if you are by one of the blue lights you can just press a button, be connected to campus police and they can come get you and take you wherever you need.”

Even though crime occurs, UTC does a great job of making sure every student is cared for and protected.

Bowman and Harris have greatly utilized UTC for help with dealing with the after effects of this traumatic event.

When asked for what advice to give students in regards to safety, Bowman advised students by saying, “I would say campus is a safe place, but I would also say don’t go to campus by yourself after dark and really take advantage of all the help UTC offers in regards to safety.”

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