Personal Safety

A Resource for Faculty and Staff

Faculty members create student-learning environments based on principles of challenge and support, relationship-building, and open door policies. How can you maintain the underlying principles at the heart of your work while making every effort to keep yourself and your campus community as safe as possible?

The following are tips to keeping yourself safe:

  • Observe and Be Alert: In many instances of violence, there are warning signs well in advance. Take note of unusual or troubling student or colleague behavior and alert the proper authorities to these concern.

  • Lock It Up: How many times have you gone somewhere without locking your office door? When working in your office late at night or early in the morning, lock your door.

  • Model Emergency Behavior: Tragedy provides an unfortunate reminder of the value in being prepared for any crisis to occur. Model the way by demonstrating the importance of cooperating with emergency preparedness drills. Run through emergency evacuation procedures at the start of each semester or quarter. It will take some valuable time, but could make a world of difference in the event of an emergency.
  • The Buddy System: The "buddy system" isn't just for students. When you walk to your car at night, or to a late meeting across campus, walk with someone or request a campus escort. Try to host evening and early morning office hours at the same time as a colleague, so you aren't ever alone in your department.
  • Never Make a Promise You Can't Keep: It's common for students to go to faculty seeking a listening ear, experienced wisdom and advice. Sometimes, during these exchanges, they may ask you to promise not to disclose something they have shared. Protect yourself and potentially others and never make that promise prior to hearing what they have to share. You are obligated to take information that leads you to believe individuals may pose a threat to themselves or to others to the appropriate people. Plus, it's often the best way to get students what they need.
  • Stay Connected: Stay up-to-date on your institution's emergency plans and policies. Routinely ask if any changes have been made that you or your colleagues should know.
  • Save Written Correspondence: Keep a record of all written exchanges you have with colleagues and students. Should a problem present itself, you may need the files to establish a pattern of behavior.
  • Open Your Door: Keep your office or classroom door open / cracked when meeting with individuals. You may also want to design your office so that your desk is closest to the door. You'll be less likely to be accused of something "behind closed doors," you'll have an accessible exit if threatened, and your voice will carry more effectively, if necessary.

Use Your Resources

There are many resources right on your own campus that are available should you encounter difficult student or colleague behavior. Many campus professionals have received extensive training on how to deal with difficult students, emergencies, and workplace violence. Consider contacting any of the resources for assistance.

Public Safety will quickly respond to your call for help and will also provide the most up to date information on emergency protocols and safety tips. Call 718-960-7777.

Student Affairs can assist you in addressing misbehavior and ensuring that the incident is recorded. Call 718-960-8241.

Counseling Center can provide you with resources to address your concerns or can assist you in referring a student for counseling. Call 718-960-8761.

Human Resources can provide helpful information on conflict management, safety tips and grievance procedures. Call 718-960-8761.

What If?

Think about a number of potentially threatening and emergency scenarios. In conjunction with your departmental and institutional procedures, what would you do if:

  • you received a worrisome or threatening e-mail, text message or instant message?
  • an argument broke out in your classroom or office building and escalated into a physical altercation?
  • a student had an emotional breakdown in the middle of class?
  • a colleague confided in you about his or her fears regarding a potential workplace violence situation?
  • you noticed bizarre, questionable or troubling behavior in a student or colleague?
  • you felt threatened when a student came to visit you during office hours?
  • you were approached in a parking lot by a distraught student?
  • you felt threatened or bullied by a colleague?

By considering appropriate responses now, you'll be better prepared in the event of a real-life situation.

Where Do I Start?

You are concerned about a disruptive student or colleague, but you don't know where to go. You aren't sure if it is extensive enough to report to Public Safety or you aren't sure the student needs counseling, and you don't want to make the situation worse. If you don't know where to start, don't just stop. Go to your supervisor or department chair and share your concerns. He or she will be able to help you determine what the situation calls for and how to best proceed. The important thing is that you act on your instincts instead of pushing concerns aside.

Using Your Cell Phone as an Emergency Tool

Putting "ICE" or "In Case of Emergency" contact numbers in your cell phone is a simple emergency preparedness strategy. Experts suggest programming the acronym "ICE" followed by the name and number of a family member or friend who EMT's, the police or hospital staff can contact if you are ill or unable to respond. These ICE individuals should be available much of the time and know of your important medical conditions. Take a few moments to input this important information into your phone today.

Last modified: Oct 13, 2011