The college experience

Going off to college presents fears of violence in many students

Story by Kailyn Williams, Sports Editor

On Nov. 13, 2022, University of Idaho students Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves were murdered in their off-campus residency in the middle of the night. 

Infamous serial murderer, Ted Bundy, is responsible for the deaths of multiple Chi Omega sorority members from Florida State University during his killing spree throughout Florida.

Texas High’s own Meechaiel Criner, who murdered Haruka Weiser at the University of Texas at Austin, is now serving a life sentence. 

Over the years, recently and distant in the past, the aggression and violence displayed through university campuses across the nation have grown to be alarming. Whether it be the hazing taking place in a fraternity or sorority house or the murders committed by those like Bundy and the suspect Bryan Kohberger in the Idaho murders, there are many factors to consider when planning where you want to attend college, aside from academics. 

There are many dangers in going off into unfamiliar territory, new cities and new people bring along challenges and fears that are unavoidable for many.

Despite the fear that going away may carry, something else that is unavoidable is breaking out of your shell, allowing yourself to take the risks of starting a new life outside the city limits of Texarkana, Texas. 

Class of 2019 Texas High graduate Kearstan Williams went off to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas to pursue a career in nursing and rush Delta Zeta sorority. Williams, now approaching her final semester of nursing school, experienced a few doubts before beginning her college journey. 

“My biggest fear was being away from what I had known my whole life,” Williams said. “Having to make new connections with people I had literally never met before was terrifying for me. It’s hard to trust strangers in today’s society. It was like abandoning the whole ‘stranger danger’ tactic we are taught from a young age.”

Per the World Health Organization in their spiel on youth violence, about 200,000 homicides occur in youth aged 10-29 with the vast majority of them happening on school campuses. 

With homicide rates amongst universities climbing in the current fashion that they are, it is important when considering colleges the feeling of safety and security is taken into account. 

“I feel like Conway is safe, I can walk around campus at night and not feel like I’m gonna get snatched or violently assaulted,” Williams said. “But I feel like if I was in a bigger city or something, where there’s more people around and less people would notice, it would be scary.”

Here in Texarkana and surrounding areas, there is a large number of students who go off to UCA, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Southern Arkansas University and the University of Texas at Austin yearly. 

Senior Annie Powell, a member of the class of 2023, has her sights set on UT. 

“[Austin being such a big city] actually was one of my deciding factors,” Powell said. “We went to Austin for a student council trip, and I remember thinking ‘this isn’t for me’ then I went down again with my parents. I realized I just needed to take time to get comfortable. They walked me down every street possible, I really got a feel for the city.”

Despite her fears, Powell is willing to venture out of her comfort zone to a city as big as Austin in hopes of broadening her horizons. 

“I also had to realize that for the opportunities I wanted to have in the future, going out there was going to be best for me,” Powell said. “I’m gonna try to avoid going out alone, I’ll always be with friends. Austin has these buttons you can press to summon the police so if I feel unsafe, I’ll use that. I feel like I have a good enough head on my shoulders to make good decisions to keep myself safe.”

There are some safety precautions that should be considered when moving off to college.

On the line of awareness, just simply knowing what is going on around you, and how to get around your newfound city is a great cautionary measure to take. 

“It’s important to know your surroundings. You can’t escape a bad situation if you are unable to identify that you are in one,” Public Information Officer Shawn Vaughn said. “I also think that knowing your way around campus is important, just so you can know a quick way to escape an uncomfortbale situation, so you can know where to go.”

Small things, like a traveling groups or pairs and watching the amount of alcohol consumption also make a difference. Maintaining a conscious mind and not losing control of your being is important so not to end up in a bad spot. 

“I’m not naive enough to think that people aren’t going to drink in college, it’s kind of apart of the experience,” Vaughn siad. “But if you get to the point of intoxication where you can’t take care of yourself, you are potentially putting yourself in a bad situation. Even then, make sure you always have someone you trust to watch out for you.”

Though thinking about the crimes associated with colleges nationwide can be frightening and disheartening when embarking on a new journey, there will be crime in any place, no matter the city. In order to grow, there must be risks taken, and college is one of them.

Crime is unpredictable, but being aware of your surroundings is the best way to protect yourself.

“You’re there to learn, you’re also there to have a good time,” Vaughn said. “I think you can do so safely, just take the common sense approach to keep yourself out of situations that may wind up bad.”