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Student Perceptions of Safety on Campus Buffalo State Psychology Club Faculty Mentor: Dr. Stephani Foraker. Method. Abstract. Questionnaire, 125 items some yes-no mostly 1-5 (1= strongly agree, 5 = strongly disagree)

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Student Perceptions of Safety on Campus

Buffalo State Psychology ClubFaculty Mentor: Dr. Stephani Foraker



  • Questionnaire, 125 items
    • some yes-no
    • mostly 1-5 (1= strongly agree, 5 = strongly disagree)
  • measured feelings of safety at different times of day and locations on campus, awareness of campus safety services, trait anxiety (IPIP scale), and demographic information
  • majority of responses were collected through an online system (Opinio), with 13% responding on a paper form.
  • incentives were used to recruit volunteer participants
    • extra credit in a psychology course
    • raffle for a Wii or Barnes & Noble gift cards (USG & your student activity fee)

We investigated student perceptions of their own safety on campus. Several factors were considered that may increase or decrease their feelings of safety, consisting of the campus environment, knowledge of safety resources, personal experiences and perceptions of safety, and demographic variables. We found that students reported higher feelings of safety with (1) greater awareness of safety services, (2) during daytime hours, (3) being in a group or inside a building, and (4) with lower trait anxiety (personality variable). We also found that feelings of safety were affected by these variables to a greater degree for women than for men.


Hypothesis 1: Results showed higher feelings of safety with greater awareness of safety services, r(227)=.125, p = .060. This effect was significant for women, r(172) = .23, p = .003, but not for men, r(51) = -.20, p >.159.


We predicted that students would report higher feelings of safety with

1. greater awareness of safety services

2. during daytime hours

3. being in a group or inside a building

4. with lower trait anxiety (personality variable)




African American 16%

Asian 4%

Native American 1

White 69%

Mixed Races 3%

Other 7%

Hispanic Heritage 7%

N = 227 51 Males, 172 Females


18-20 58%

21-24 36%

25+ 6%

Feeling safe can be just as important or more important than objectively being safe. We based our study on previous studies, choosing factors that could make people feel safer.

Several studies were consulted in formulating this survey (see References, below). Each found that perceived safety of students on campus is generally moderate and does not pose a significant problem to campus life. The most commonly reported offenses were property crimes, which include theft and vandalism while personal crimes such as assault and robbery were highly uncommon.

Past findings suggest that college students are comfortable overall with the level of security campuses provide and can rationally overcome perceived fear and risk when they are present.

Freshman 30%

Sophomore 15%

Junior 30%

Senior 25%

Graduate 1 person

Hypothesis 2: students’ perception of feeling safe was significantly greater during the day than after dark, t (226)= 16.10, p < .001.


First, we found that feelings of safety were higher with greater awareness of what the campus had to offer as safety services. Second, students feel safer during the day. Third, we found that being alone or outside of a building decreased safety, while being in a group or inside a building raised their feelings of safety. Also, this difference was bigger after dark than during the day. Fourth, we looked at the impact trait anxiety had on feelings of safety and found a marginal correlation meaning that students tended to feel more safe if they had low general anxiety. Last, we found that while our hypothesis that prior experience as a victim of crime would have a positive effect on feelings of safety we found that it had no effect at all.

Our study suggests the availability of services to student s on campus is necessary and important to students’ perceptions of safety. Also, when scheduling classes during the evening hours, it should be taken into consideration where these classes are conducted and if safety services are available, and attention should be paid to the safety of women.

Our limitations were that there were substantially fewer men than women in our sample and we did not check what kind of majors our sample contained.


  • Hypothesis 3: higher feelings of safety when in a group or inside a building, overall,
  • F(1, 225) = 100.45, p < .001.
  • also interacted with time of day, because being inside or with a group had a larger protective effect at night than during the day, F(1, 225) = 66.41, p < .001.

Burruss, G. W., Schafer, J. A., & Giblin, M. J. (June, 2010). Student perceptions of campus safety initiatives: Assessing views of critical incident prevention & response. Chicago, IL: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Campus safety is now a significant factor in college choice; students and parents are equally concerned about safety at college. (1997, Spring). Student Poll, 2,1-12.

Jennings, W. G., Gover, A. R., & Pudrzynskas, D. (2007). Are institutions of higher learning safe? A descriptive study of campus safety issues and self-reported campus victimization among male and female college students. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 18(2), 191-208.

Robinson, M. (1998). A look at the relationship between high aesthetics/low incivilities, criminal victimization & perceptions of risk. Journal of Security Administration, 21(2), 19-32.

Robinson, M. B., & Mullen, K. L. (in press). Crime on campus: A survey of space users. Crime Prevention and Community Safety.

Warr, M. & Stafford, M. (1983). Fear of victimization: A look at the proximate causes. Social Forces, 61, 1033-1043.


Primary Authors: Carla Kuhl, Kristina Atwell, Kristen Young, John Meyers, Louis Dangelo, Hannah Klie, Lindsay Cosenza, Amanda Grenier

Thanks to everyone who helped with developing the topic and the questionnaire and collecting data: Sarah Ackerman, Lindsay Cosenza, Lisa Fears, Vendi Hodge, Perry Kent, Lauren Lamb, Kevin Meindl, Colleen Montreuil, Morgan Morningstar, Katie Mosier, Amanda Reed, Angelicia Rouse, Leticia Téllez, Salome Tsige, Shayla Washington, and Caley Wekenmann

Hypothesis 4: higher feelings of safety when they had lower trait anxiety was confirmed, r(227)= .126, p = .059.

Posthoc, we also investigated whether prior victimization had an affect on feelings of safety and contrary to what we predicted we found that there was no effect either way, r(227)= .103, p > .211.