Staying Safe on Campus: A Father's Perspective

Friday, October 3, 2014

In late August, Lauris Freidenfelds and his wife drove their 18-year-old son — the youngest of their three children — to Iowa City to begin his freshman year at the University of Iowa. Freidenfelds brought some extra perspective to this rite of passage because he’s the director of Rush’s Security Services. Here he offers ideas for both students and parents about ensuring safety on university campuses, as a father and a security professional.

Rush News: What safety issues did you think about when you got your son to campus?

Freidenfelds: I was trying to be objective about bringing him into this new environment and making sure it all was safe. I did what are the usual things from my perspective, making sure the dorm was sprinklered and he knows where the fire exit is. I made sure he pays attention and knows what he’s doing with his laptop.

What advice did you give your son about security?

Have fun, but not too much. I said the fatherly thing that I’ve told students here at Rush, that nothing good happens after midnight, so be home before then. Don’t let the fun overwhelm the reason why you’re here.

There was a little contradictory parenting going on. My wife was focused on making sure he socializes well, telling him, ‘Keep the door open, you’ll make friends that way.’ I’m telling him, ‘Keep the door closed, you’ll keep your laptop longer.’ I’m working with him to make sure he enables his laptop tracker, while my wife is making sure he’s making his bed properly. And he’s in the middle, with a lot of circles going around in the poor kid’s mind.

How can parents know if a campus is safe?

They can look at the Clery report that every university submits. It tells you in direct comparison with other universities what the crimes are on campus. We found that the University of Iowa had a very low crime rate. I felt more comfortable that he selected a place that’s safer.

What can students do to protect themselves from problems?

Put your valuables away when you leave your room. Make sure to lock your door. Turn on the tracking systems on your laptops and phones. When you’re out in public, the same concepts apply whether you’re in Iowa City or Chicago: Don’t show off your valuables, put away your phones and pay attention to the people that surround them, so they know you know they’re there.

What steps does Rush take to provide a safe environment for our students?

We’ve continued to increase the number of emergency call boxes around the campus, including Center Court Gardens [Rush University student housing]. They’re working on installing nine call boxes and should be done by the end of November. We continue to make access control improvements to the library and the study areas in our academic facility to provide a safe, secure environment. These steps allow students to go where they’re allowed but prevent people from squatting where they’re not allowed. We’re conducting more video surveillance. We focus as much as we can on prevention issues and making sure the campus is safe.

What would you say to a parent of one of our incoming students who asks if the campus is safe?

Take a look at our Clery report, which was posted on our Rush University website. You’ll see we’ve got a safe campus. I know some of the parents who have kids here now, and some of them are asking that question. I tell them I’d feel confident sending my kids to school here.