Despite reports of bikes and jackets being stolen on campus and the occasional flashing event on the towpath, Princeton feels like the safest place on earth. So safe that laptops and phones are left alone at Frist Campus Center for hours, and 5-foot-2-inch girls like me don’t even think twice about going for a run at night. But should we?
The town of Princeton had 24 reported violent crimes last year. The odds of falling victim to a violent crime here are 1 in 1,302; the odds throughout New Jersey are 1 in 408.
There isn’t much to be afraid of. But I wonder if our constant sense of safety allowed us to feel less accountable — not only for ourselves but also for staying aware of the happenings on this campus.
When my friends at Yale or the University of Pennsylvania hear that on many occasions I have chosen to walk home from the Street alone, they laugh a bit and say they would never, and their friends would never let them. Friends at Cornell speak of the emails they receive about break-ins to dorms and violence each week. Attending larger or more urban schools comes with pros and cons, such as more non-university affiliated people on campus. But contrary to popular belief, Princeton University is not an isolated oasis. We may not have many, but instances of outside disturbances are wiped quickly from student memory — has anyone mentioned the Panera gunman this year? We are so attached to the concept of the Orange Bubble that even when it is popped, we cling to it.
Prior to writing this article, the examples of campus crime I could think did not sound insidious enough to scare me. Following a scan of PRINCETON ALERTs emails in my inbox and searching through The Daily Princetonian’s online archive, more instances were rescued from the abyss of my memory. Last spring, there was one report of fraud and three reports of lewdness or unwanted sexual contact that the University issued alerts about. While this is only a sampling of the incidents reported to officials, the alerts about someone taking cell phone pictures of men in the bathroom of Firestone Library and a man fondling a juvenile female at DeNunzio Pool served as unfortunate reminders that it is important to be aware of surroundings, even in a place as serene and serious as Firestone, or as bustling as Dillon Gymnasium.
A full year of those alerts went by and not one etched its way into my memory. I’m thankful that they are not consistent, but in being more aware of what is going on on this campus, perhaps I will become more aware for when I leave it. A ‘Prince’ column published last spring presents a real-world example of being snapped out of the Orange Bubble. Rather than being snapped out, I’d rather respect its fragility and limits a bit more.
I do not think I will stop leaving my phone on a table when I am getting food at a dining hall, but I do think it is important to view Princeton more as a public shared space than a self-contained shell. Interacting with (visiting, reading, volunteering, etc.) with local cities such as Camden and Trenton could help me see Princeton as among the rest of the world. This life isn’t a big game of capture the flag and campus is not an automatic safety zone, despite looking like one.
Writer’s note: There are many kinds of crimes, and while this column refers to acts of physical violence or robbery, I acknowledge that other traumas such as sexual assault happen more frequently and are more likely not to be reported. For more information on those statistics, consult ‘Prince’ archive or the University’s annual report on the topic.
Rachel Kennedy is a sophomore from Dedham, Mass. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.