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SD University Proactive Towards Preventing Sexual Assaults

Amy Varland

Sexual assaults on college campuses across America are in the national spotlight due to claims that many universities have ambiguous or non-existent policies. SDPB’s Amy Varland reports what Black Hills State University in Spearfish is doing to ensure the safety of its students and highlighting some of the measures officials are taking to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

Officials at Black Hills State say that over the past three years only three sexual assaults have been reported to university officials – one took place in a residents hall – the other two were reported because students were involved.
Phil Peshek is the Director of Campus Security.  He says keeping students safe is a priority.
“We have a pretty vast array of security conditions on campus. The residence halls are all electronic door locks – access is only by magnetic stripe cards. We have uniformed public safety officers on campus seven days a week and we take a very proactive approach to our job as far as offering awareness training, personal safety training, we’re hosting different sexual assault awareness training situations, presentations and seminars so we approach it not only from a responsive perspective but very proactive,” says Peshek.
Peshek says each fall students, faculty, admin, and public safety personnel comb the campus grounds on foot looking for any trouble spots – like areas with poor lighting.
“We are in the process right now of converting all of our exterior lights across our campus to LEDs and those will be brighter, will burn longer without burning out, more consistent and more economical, but mainly it’s they’re brighter lighting,” says Peshek.
Measures are also taken at campus resident halls to keep students safe.
Jordan Hauger has been a resident assistant at the university’s Thomas Hall for the last three years.
“We have a sign-in procedure at 8:00 when our shift begins so if a resident living in that building has a guest in the building they have to bring them down and sign them in with the RA on duty. That just ensures that we know everyone who’s in the building,“ says Hauger.
BHSU officials say traveling in numbers in well-lit areas and being aware of surroundings can help ensure personal safety on and off campus. They say they take student safety seriously and encourage anyone that has been a victim of a sexual assault or other violation to report them.

Recent legislation in Washington D.C. requires colleges and universities to educate staff and students about how to prevent and address sexual harassment, sex-related crimes, and violence.

The South Dakota Board of Regents schools have made efforts to increase awareness on South Dakota campuses. Mandatory training sessions teach how to recognize harassment and report it. Officials say this is another tool to keep students safe.



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