Gendered Perceptions of Safety and Danger on the College Campus: The Functions of Fear




Jacobsen, Shannon K.

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Utilizing a mixed methods design, this research examines the ways in which students’ perceptions of safety and danger on the college campus vary and do not vary according to gender through the inclusion of three key components. The first focuses on individual perceptions of safety on campus, along with the ways in which students and other members of the campus community police their behaviors within the university setting to ensure that their personal space is not violated as they navigate to and from classes and campus events. This section relies on data from interviews and focus groups with 24 Mason students and staff, along with data from the observations of two open meetings of the Presidential Task Force during April 2011 which centered on issues regarding campus safety. The second component of this study examines the institutional presentation of safety issues and risks to the university community. This section includes a content analysis of five crime and safety documents released during the 2011-2012 academic year to the campus community from the University Police and administration. The final component consists of a nation-wide assessment of safety on college campuses, relying on the crime and security data from two nationally representative datasets including the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2004-2005 Survey of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies and the U.S. Department of Education’s 2006-2007 Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool. This study builds on previous research on this topic by investigating the gendered (and not gendered) dimensions of fear, in addition to how such fears may operate to restrict women’s participation on the university campus and beyond. Further, this research seeks to inform discussions at colleges and universities about how to make students feel safer as they pursue higher education.



Gender, College students, Fear of crime, Security, Campus safety, Mixed methods