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Campus Vigilance: Understanding and Addressing Threats in Higher Education


As a parent of a young college student all I want is for my kid to get a good education and enjoy the college experience. Yet colleges are like small little countries. Any threat in the world can exist on a college campus. Threats do not discriminate, the danger is always out there. Relationships that go awry, the mass shooter that has perceived a wrong, and even terrorism. So how do we become proactive instead of reactive? What does a threat assessment look like?


First, is the understanding that threats exist. With that, many threats are underreported. These calculations likely under estimate the actual prevalence of violence on college campuses. Dating and sexual violence are the most common threat followed by stalking and sexual harassment. Besides the act itself, the lasting impact of such acts can leave negative lasting effects on victims.


Besides the impact on the victims, violence against college students can be detrimental for an institution. Recruitment, retention, and funding support can be threatened if the institution does not handle violence effectively. Strategies to predict and prevent violence on college campuses are not well known. Focusing efforts on threat assessments is one logical starting point.


Many threat assessments will delve into the psychology of the threat and the help available to said threat. I am a proponent of behavioral threat assessments. Take Elliot Rodger for instance. He killed 7 and injured 14 near the University of California Santa Barbara before killing himself. His motive was based on sexual and social rejection. Rodgers had a therapist, he wrote a manifesto which he emailed to friends, and he even uploaded a video to YouTube. The threats are out there. As threat assessment professionals our job is to listen, evaluate, and mitigate such threats.


There are a great many threats out there and we can't get into all of them in one article as every threat must be assessed accordingly. What we can do is understand each threat. The perpetrator may or may not be a student of the campus. Remember not everyone is violent but anyone can be violent.


I want to leave you with Lauren's Promise.


"Everyone has the power to listen, believe, and respond to a person asking for help."

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