Theses Doctoral

Campus Safety in 4-year Public Colleges and Universities in the United States

Padilla, George

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education published revised guidelines for emergency response planning for colleges and universities in the United States. These guidelines reflect the collective work of numerous government intelligence, law enforcement, and preparedness agencies that have taken into account the past successes and failures of schools in response to natural disasters and man-made disasters such as cyber hacking and targeted violent incidents on campuses. With a collective enrollment of over 20 million students annually and valuable physical resources such as libraries, stadiums, and medical centers at institutions of higher education (IHE), an effort to identify the current safety personnel, practices, and services was conducted.
The purpose of this research was to identify areas of IHE compliance with the government guidelines and to identify differences, if any, by school enrollment size and region of the country. A cross-sectional design was used to describe compliance with the government guidelines and examine the differences based on a random sample drawn from all accredited 4- year public colleges and universities (n=708) in the United States.
A sample of 17% of all eligible institutions was selected (n=120), and a 70.8% response rate was obtained (n=85). Directors of public safety were interviewed by telephone and reported information regarding their school’s availability of mental health counseling, crime prevention programs, emergency communications plans, emergency operations plans, and personnel training.
The major findings of this study revealed that only 64 (75%) schools offered disaster response presentations to new students and staff, while 9 (11%) reported that their written emergency operations plans were not available to their communities, and that only 53 (62.4%) offered presentations regarding cyber-security and safeguarding online information. This study also revealed that 40 (47%) of the respondents either did not have or did not know if their school had an emergency operations plan for dealing with database theft, and 55 (64.7%) either did not have or did not know if there was a plan in place to safeguard the private contact information used in their emergency communications systems. With an estimated 300,000+ college students annually studying abroad, only 44 (51.3%) respondents reported offering travel safety presentations to their communities. Few differences were identified based on enrollment or regional location. The implications are discussed within the context of increasing national trends of gun violence, armed civilians and officers on campuses, cyber hacking, and increased participation by students and researchers traveling abroad.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Basch, Charles E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 14, 2018