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It’s Just after 10 o’clock on a recent weekend night, when Matthew Pfau, a 26-year-old officer with the University of Maryland, College Park, campus police, gets his first, utterly conventional call of the night: A student is smoking pot. A resident assistant in a high-rise dormitory noted the distinct smell of marijuana wafting through the door of a freshman’s room. Donald Sutherland’s stoner professor from Animal House would be proud, even if the Class of 2020 doesn’t remember Sutherland or that movie. On this Friday in September, Pfau chuckles a little before speeding off in his cruiser. “It’s usually only a small amount of marijuana,” he says. View the Illustration Several minutes later, Pfau arrives at the hall, heads up four floors, and knocks on a door. An 18-year-old with bloodshot eyes and unmistakable pungency answers, but denies he has been smoking. When Pfau asks to see his campus ID card, the student flips open his wallet and accidentally reveals a Rhode Island driver’s license, which Pfau instantly spots as fake and confiscates. Finally, after a bit more coaxing, the student comes clean. “All right, I’m gonna be honest with you,” he says. “Yes, I smoked a little weed tonight.” The fake ID is going back to the campus police station for destruction. As for the pot: Pfau will refer the freshman to the Office of Student Conduct, where he’ll explain what happened to a court of his peers. Possessing marijuana can get a student kicked out of school, but the chance of that happening on a first offense is quite low. Along with drinking beer, it’s the sort of activity most expect to find on a college campus. Pfau knows both of these things, and keeps a professional but friendly tone throughout the interaction. This is all very typical. For the most part, college administrators and campus safety personnel, like Pfau, handle small matters such as these several times on an average weekend night, and not much else. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a college campus is one of the safer places to be in America. A study this spring showed that higher-education crimes nationwide decreased by 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, a figure the center came up with by analyzing universities’ annual crime reports—which, along with daily crime logs and timely alerts of crimes on campus, are requirements for colleges under the federal Clery Act. Yet how schools respond to campus safety worries is increasingly on the minds of Maryland administrators and campus police—and parents. The list of stereotypical campus safety concerns has long included issues such as binge drinking, hazing, pot smoking, and robbery. But there are others, too. Last May, a student at The Johns Hopkins University was robbed at gunpoint late at night, an incident that recalled the armed robbery of four Hopkins freshmen during their first night on campus in 2013. And over the summer, Baltimore County police charged two Towson University students from the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity with reckless endangerment after a hazing incident left a 19-year-old hospitalized. Today, sexual assault dominates the list of concerns. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating more than 200 colleges for how they handle allegations of sexual assault, including The Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Mount St. Mary’s University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. (In September, the department’s investigation into Frostburg State University concluded with no fine, and the school was taken off the list.) All five schools are the subject of Title IX complaints brought against them by students. Under the 1972 federal Title IX law, sex-based discrimination in education is prohibited, and the Department of Education has concluded that sexual harassment and sexual assault are forms of sex-based discrimination because they can create a hostile learning environment on campus. “The issue of sexual assault the last couple of years has gotten a lot of attention,” says Saakshi Suri, co-director of the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) student group at Hopkins, which runs a campus hotline and advocates on behalf of victims. “We had way more interest [from potential student volunteers] this year than in the past.” Last year, Lili Bernard, an actress who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault and a parent of a JHU student, reached out to SARU and worked with the group to try to convince the school to rescind his honorary degree. Towson University Chief of police Bernard Gerst. Guns are also a growing concern on campus. Last fall, for example, Washington College evacuated the campus when it got word that a missing student had left his parents’ house near Philadelphia, possibly armed with a gun. Days later, sophomore Jacob Marberger was found 80 miles from Philadelphia, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Pennsylvania State Police. And, regrettably, the threat of an active shooter still looms nearly a decade since the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 dead and 17 wounded. From 2000 to 2013, there were 12 “active-shooter incidents” at colleges and universities, according to FBI data, part of a burgeoning trend of active-shooter incidents nationwide. As a result, classroom doors are being retrofitted at Towson University so they can be locked from the inside, and it’s a requirement of all new construction, according to university police chief Bernard Gerst. In light of ongoing safety concerns, the pressure is on colleges to respond while also maintaining their reputations and juggling multiple constituencies—chief among them parents and students. “There’s a greater sense of the need for security on campus,” says David Heffer, director of public safety at Goucher College. “There’s always been this desire for it. But I do think because of the Title IX stuff, because of the active-shooter thing, and because we’re getting better data nowadays, we’re focusing more on developing strategies to stop some of those things, or to at least slow them down.” The study by the National...

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