How to Stay Safe On Campus: Resources at UF, Tips & More

When I was about to start my first year of college, one of the many things my parents would constantly instill inside of me was the need to take self-defense classes. I didn’t take my parents worries seriously, as I assumed that even though I was unfamiliar with Gainesville, it was a college campus with students my age everywhere. But unlike my familiar home setting, I quickly saw that people walk almost everywhere in Gainesville.

While there are students with the occasional car and scooter, mostly everyone finds their way around campus by foot.  Once I started college, I quickly realized that the schedule I have for myself differs greatly from that of my friends. Because of that, a lot of the time I find myself walking around Gainesville alone in areas that aren’t as populated as the center of campus. It was like I could hear my dad’s paranoid voice whispering in my ear, telling me to be careful walking around alone.

It also didn’t help when I recently started to hear of more stories about girls on campus being approached by alleged sex traffickers or being attacked on campus. But instead of letting these stories scare us, it’s important that girls on UF’s campus, and all campuses, are informed about the resources available that spread awareness.

It’s not paranoia — it’s thinking ahead 

Last year, Law and Order SVU became my obsession. After hours of binge watching the show, and then having to drag myself to class after, I couldn’t help but notice how on edge I became. I would find myself looking over my shoulder whenever I heard an unfamiliar noise or saw something that seemed out of the ordinary. Walking around campus and zoning out with my headphones in is great when I’m trying to avoid fliers in Turlington; however, when I’m walking alone at night in an unfamiliar area, zoning out from the world with my headphones blasting music doesn’t allow me to pay attention to my surroundings.

The bottom line is that my life is not an episode of SVU. While I do know that scary, terrible things do happen to people every day, all that I can do for myself is remain as cautious as possible. After a late night spent at the library, walking back to my car is never fun. It’s especially more scary when minutes before you receive an email from UFPD with information about an attack on a girl in a campus-parking garage. Hearing stories such as this one only pushes me to remain more aware of the reality that bad people do exist in this world; however, it’s my job to look out for myself.

Resources available at the University of Florida 

The University of Florida does a great job of sharing multiple resources that allow students to feel safer. There are some resources that most students are very familiar with, such as the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP), which gives UF students free, safe transportation around campus at night. Furthermore, the blue light phones that can be seen on multiple college campuses around the nation are also all over UF. 

UF also offers students an Uber discount through Safe Rides. Students can log on here and activate their Safe Rides Uber code, which gives 25 percent discounts for Uber rides between Wednesdays and Sundays from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. within a defined area around campus.

UF also has a program geared toward helping teen and adult women feel safer by learning self-defense. The program is called S.A.F.E. and stands for Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange. The S.A.F.E. program allows women to learn self-defense techniques, as well as watch an introductory video on the subject. By taking advantage of all the resources UF has to offer, one is equipping themselves with all the tools they can to be prepared in case of an emergency. 

Though it is easy and understandable to let fear get the best of us when we hear scary stories in the Gainesville area, it’s important to take that fear and channel it into proactivity. While these incidents can be shocking and sometimes heartbreaking, there is not much we can do except do our best to protect ourselves and hopefully change potential outcomes.