Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Monday, May 27, 2019

New study says college campus violence on the rise

Violent attacks at college campuses have risen dramatically in the past 20 years, according to a study released last week.

The FBI, Secret Service and U.S Department of Education released the study, called “Campus Attacks,” on the third anniversary of the Virginia Tech Massacre. It is the first comprehensive look into “targeted violence” on college campuses.

The study examined all reported incidents of “targeted violence” since 1900 and found that 60 percent of the 272 cases of college violence have occurred in the last 20 years. About 30 percent of the total number of reported cases occurred between 2000 and 2008, the study said.

The study’s authors attributed the increase in violence to a rise in both college enrollment and media coverage of attacks.

The majority of cases involved current male undergraduate students around 25 years old, while 33.9 percent of incidents involved people in intimate relationships.

Fully 27.7 percent of cases between 1900 and 2008 were in residence buildings. About 25 percent were in administrative or academic buildings, according to the study.

At AU, there have been only four reported assaults and one “intimidation offense” on campus in the past three years, according to the Department of Public Safety’s Annual Security Report.

Firearms were used in over half of the total reported attacks, according to the study.

Across all 272 incidents, 281 people died and 247 were injured.

In the event of an “active shooter” on AU’s campus, the Metropolitan Police Department, assisted by Public Safety officers, would be responsible for resolving the situation, according to AU’s Emergency Preparedness Plan.

AU has reinforced its emergency preparedness and violence prevention programs to prevent a Virginia Tech-style attack from occurring on campus, according to the 2009 Annual Security Report.

AU’s Emergency Management Plan details plans for handling a number of campus emergencies including on-campus shooters, bomb and anthrax threats, riots and general “violent and criminal behavior.”

A Violence Prevention Team is tasked with identifying students or faculty at AU who exhibit threatening or disruptive behaviors on campus. The team was created last year and is composed of representatives from the Office of Student Life, Human Resources, Housing and Dining Programs and Public Safety, according to Dean of Students Rob Hradsky.

However, the study found that warning signs are only observed and reported one-third of the time.

“I can only think of one case [involving a student] in the past year that the team has reviewed,” Hradsky said.

The Counseling Center and the Violence Prevention Team try to identify people who need help because they could be on a “path to violence,” according to Director of AU’s Counseling Center Wanda Collins.

College often introduces new stresses into students’ lives and sometimes people have difficulty coping with them, Collins said.

The Department of Public Safety could not be reached for comment.

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