A Look at Campus Culture From the Public Health Perspective

Is the current environment of campus college a public health concern? We sat down and spoke with senior Public Health major, Minh Nguyen, to discuss his opinion and perspective on F&M's campus culture from a public health perspective.

HC: As a senior student at F&M, what has been your experiences with F&M’s campus culture?

MN: I have a pretty diverse experience with the campus culture of F&M. I come from an international background, Vietnam. During my freshman year, I joined the Sigma Pi fraternity (which is now dormant, RIP). In my sophomore year, I joined the varsity rowing team. Currently, I am the Team Coordinator (i.e. President) of the new Partners In Health: Engage chapter of our school. I took on many roles on the campus like that because I wanted everyone to see that I, along with many other people, don’t fit into the typical Asian international student stereotype: nerdy, quiet, and aloof.

HC: From your perspective, how are the issues surrounding campus culture related to public health?

MN: To be honest, I did not have much exposure to the so-called “campus culture” until I come to the States. So, it hit me hard, the party and the openness to physical contact among students. I was enjoying a lot of these new experiences and I thought life was perfect. But it was not, especially for female students on the college campus. I was horrified when I learn about harassment, sexual assault, and rape. I just couldn’t imagine how someone can be so evil to take advantage of a fellow student. Then I know more about the dark side of the college experience. Being a female is like playing a videogame at a harder level. You can’t go to the party alone because someone might try to get you drunk and take advantage of you. You can’t dance in peace without someone creeping up on you trying to get “uncomfortably close” (yes, I am actually talking about groping). Even going to class, people try to flirt with you and continue to bother you constantly with texts and Snapchats. I was even more shocked when I learned that there were incidences of drug-rape attempts in places downtown where F&M student frequently go during the weekend. You are never safe as a female on a college campus.

Being a public health student, I view these problems as diseases. The effect of this problem can be damaging to female student: psychological trauma, constant feeling of being unsafe, or even depression and suicidal behaviors. Not to mention the emotional toll that the victim might have. Public health addresses diseases through prevention. And I think that is where we want to focus our effort on.

HC: Based on your experiences, what are your opinions on how issues of campus security and women’s safety are being handled at F&M?

MN: I might be a bit too critical. I think that these issues are not being addressed effectively on the campus. Although we as a community has gone a long way in term of improving campus security for women, showed through the decreased number of sexual assault incidents, women are still having to put up with a lot of harassment that stem from a toxic mindset of their male counterparts on this campus. Like I mentioned earlier, I know a female student that was harassed by one of her classmates for over a month, with suggestive texts and photos.

HC: In your opinion, what are the advantages of viewing F&M’s campus culture through a public health perspective?

MN: As I said, the public health perspective is the perspective of prevention, not treatment. That means that what we need to do is to focus on the root of the problem and address it, preventing it from manifesting into worse situations. And personally, I think the root of the lack of security for women on campus is the fact that their male counterpart lacks the understanding of the difficulties that women face, maybe even the respect, for them. That is not to say every male on this campus is like that. Men who are aware of the situation needs to help those who are not to understand the problems that we are facing.

HC: What changes do you think F&M can and should implement to tackle these issues?

MN: Personally, I think it starts with education. Creating a component in the orientation program for freshmen and freshwomen to learn more about campus culture, their rights, how to react to certain situations, and how to be safe is very important. Greek life, especially fraternity, needs a designated member who would be responsible for the training of other members in terms of campus culture and how to act accordingly in a situation that might potentially lead to unwanted consequences. Ultimately, everyone needs to be active in order to promote a safe campus for women.