Students must possess street and book smarts

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings wherever you are, but this is especially true for Trojans given our university’s location.

In light of recent events on our campus, both on Halloween and last spring, it seems appropriate to address the issue of safety when going out at night. No matter how you go about it, the area around USC can be dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with admitting this; it doesn’t give our school a bad reputation and shouldn’t dissuade prospective students. It’s simply a fact that our university must learn to coexist with.

As students, however, we shouldn’t have to question our safety on campus. Being a well-funded, private university, USC has the capability to ensure that its students remain worry-free when walking Trousdale, eating at the Campus Center, jogging the track or doing whatever wherever on campus.

This doesn’t mean our campus has to become an isolated island within the surrounding Los Angeles community. Retreating to our apartments after sundown will not solve anything. It just means that USC should recognize that the well-being of its students comes before community involvement, especially when concerning an unnecessary party.

“Be aware of your surroundings.” This is a phrase we constantly hear, whether from parents or a vague email sent by university administration, but what does it actually mean to be aware of your surroundings? It goes beyond not talking to strangers and keeping your eyes and ears peeled for suspicious activity near you. Being aware is a state of mind. When roaming campus at night or using off-campus streets — as so many of us do on a nightly basis — mature and perceptive behavior must be adopted.

Travel in groups, especially late at night. Does it really sound like a good idea to be walking down a side street by yourself at 2:30 a.m.? No, it doesn’t, even when traveling with others. On a similar note, avoid using secluded alleyways and routes with minimal foot traffic. When safety is in question, using the road less traveled isn’t necessarily the best choice.

Always carry some cash (but not an excessive amount) and an ID, because you never know when you’ll need these in a pinch. Empty your wallet of anything you can’t live without or replace. It’s also smart to place your money in different places — socks, bra, pocket, you name it — so that you’ll never be without backup.

Unless absolutely necessary, avoid carrying credit cards and never flash around your fancy smartphone, iPod or jewelry. Nothing brings unwanted attention like the LCD screen of the latest gadget. Instead of using your gear to keep yourself amused, pay attention to what’s happening around you and, better yet, the people in your general area. Likewise, don’t obstruct your hearing with headphones at full volume — not only will your eardrums suffer, but you’ll be oblivious to outside noises.

Tunnel vision is equally as dangerous; just like your eyes shouldn’t be glued to your screen, don’t let your thoughts overwhelm your senses. Stay aware of what’s going on. It’s kind of like crossing the street, except you’re doing it over and over again: You look both ways and listen for danger. Trust your instincts. If something about your environment feels off, don’t ignore your latent Spidey senses.

While walking to your destination, also keep in mind that the areas around campus are semi-residential. Don’t be loud or obnoxious, because this behavior will only attract negative attention. Such an attitude will also make you look like an ass regardless of your location.

Another solid piece of advice is telling people where you’re going to be for the night. Keeping friends or family out of the loop when it comes to plans can have some nasty consequences (127 Hours, anyone?). One or more people you trust should know where you’re headed at night.

Don’t be hesitant to utilize Campus Cruiser, either. Why worry about navigating the quickest, most well-lit route to an off-campus party when you can just opt for a free car ride? Additionally, the time spent waiting for the Cruiser to arrive can be spent pre-gaming or gathering friends to ensure a smooth party departure.

Of course, all of these pointers should occur naturally to anyone with common sense. This column isn’t meant to suggest that you should harbor deep-seated anxiety when walking on or around campus at night. It’s a reminder.

The Trojan Family’s strength was evident when the phones of students everywhere lit up following the Trojans Alert text message, making sure that friends and family were safe from danger. Campus safety procedures must be seriously evaluated if USC wants to continue its rise to the top. Though it’s the university’s responsibility to plan events with closer attention to detail in the future, it’s our responsibility as Trojans to look out for each other and make sure we act accordingly.

Our spirit shouldn’t have to be tested this way. Stay safe and Fight On.


Nick Cimarusti is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “Get Schooled” runs Mondays.

3 replies
  1. New Trojan Parent
    New Trojan Parent says:

    You missed two important ways that students endanger themselves and others:

    1. Don’t walk around or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs!

    2. Don’t advertise your parties and your personal whereabouts through public internet sites!

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