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Observer Editorial: Let’s create a safer campus

Being back on campus means getting back into the swing of things. Whether that means getting used to school work routines, friend groups or even drinking and going out, it’s not always easy. In addition to a list of resources from our rolodex last week, we want to not forget general reminders that can go a long way in keeping you and your friends safe.

Have each others’ backs

Going out to a bar, a party or even dinner can be fun. Unfortunately, what can start as a great night can take a turn for the worse if we aren’t there for each other. When you go out, make sure you go with friends you trust. Watch out for over-consumption, and respect each other when someone says they’ve had enough to drink, or simply don’t want to. And, help enforce that answer if someone else won’t respect it. 

If a friend finds themselves in a dangerous situation, call the authorities for help — even if people in the group have been drinking underage. Indiana’s Lifeline Law provides immunity for anyone seeking help from law enforcement for a friend who needs medical attention due to alcohol. Don’t let the fear of getting in trouble keep you from protecting — or saving — your friends. 

If you see someone outside of your friend group who might need help, reach out to them. Make sure they are okay and invite them to come home with your group if they seem alone or in an uncomfortable situation. You may not be comfortable with this yet, and that’s okay. One great way to become more comfortable with helping others is to complete GreeNDot training. Bystander intervention is an important resource — the more people who know how to use it, the safer our community can be.

Watch out for yourself, too

No one knows your limits better than you do. If you haven’t drank before, pace yourself. If you have, still pace yourself and listen to your body. It’s not the same every time, and other factors can have an effect on how your night goes. Be careful not to put your drink down, leave it with anyone else or place it out of your sight for too long. If you think you see someone else’s drink tampered with, tell them. 

Don’t walk alone at night 

When you’re in unfamiliar places, travel in packs. Walking home with friends can be convenient, but it’s also important to make sure you’re careful. Even if you Uber to different dorms a few feet from each other, make sure you have a system to let friends know you’re home. Send a quick text saying “Made it!” or even something as simple as “Home.” If you have to be alone, call someone. You don’t have to talk. They can just continue whatever they are doing while you stay alert for what’s going on around you. If that doesn’t work for you, set up some kind of system that will. Another option to help you make it home safely is the new ND Safe App. There you can find several resources including safety options like a virtual walkhome. 

For students heading to Saint Mary’s, Blinkie is always a safe and reliable option. Blinkie runs Sunday through Thursday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. to 4 a. m. Times will be adjusted as it becomes darker out earlier. For Saint Mary’s students heading back to campus after Blinkie’s hours SMCurity (Saint Mary’s Campus Safety) can always be called. They are able to pick students up from the Grotto bus stop and drive them back to Saint Mary’s.     

These preventative measures are especially important this time of year. The start of fall semester through Thanksgiving break has been dubbed “the Red Zone” by the MeToo Movement. More than 50% of sexual assault instances on college campuses occur in that window, and it is especially unsafe for women — even those who know their campus well. Walking home with a group and having friends you trust to check-in with are two ways to make your evenings feel a little safer and a bit more manageable. 

You don’t have to drink alcohol

The social pressure to drink, while more monitored in some ways than other college cultures, is still present. Whether at dissos, a house party or a pregame, drinking is often a big part of people’s evening plans. But it doesn’t have to be. If you want to go out, meet new people and hit different events throughout the year, try FlipSide, a Notre Dame club that provides activity alternatives without the social pressures of drinking. You can also go out to dinner, bowl or see a movie. Or even if you’re at one of those dissos or weekend parties with friends, you still don’t have to drink. Bring a water bottle and have fun with your friends anyways. Drinking is not a requirement at these events, and if anyone makes it seem like it is, that’s a good time to leave. 

On the other hand, a night in can be one of your most memorable and fun nights on campus. Order a pizza, decompress, do a face mask, paint your nails — anything that isn’t homework — and just relax for the evening. It’s a great way to spend time with friends, catch up about your week and take a moment to take care of yourself. 

Look out for your mental and physical wellness

Getting a reasonable amount of sleep is a game-changer. Studies show that sleep deprivation has profound effects on human health in many different facets of life. It may seem like a pipe dream to get seven hours of sleep every night, but repeated sleep loss can lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, hypertension and diabetes. It may even take longer for you to recover from your case of the freshman plague.

Anxiety and depression mixed with sleep deprivation can create a positive feedback loop of worsening mental health. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, you may get less sleep, and less sleep will worsen your symptoms.

When we start to neglect little acts of self-care like getting enough sleep, taking care of friends, drinking water and spending time with loved ones, our overall wellness is impacted. Checking in on each other shouldn’t stop at the edge of your social circles. If you see someone struggling, whether it be on a night out or just because of a bad day, offer a hand. 

Now that we are a third of the way through the semester, classes are in full swing and football season fatigue is kicking in. Keep taking care of yourself and others. Small acts make a difference.