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As ODU Grows, So Does School’s Responsibility for Protecting Students, Staff

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Old Dominion University is essentially a small town. With 5,000 students living on campus in dorms and another estimated 2,500 students living in nearby neighborhoods, the school will soon be designated a "primarily residential" university, according to a report in the January 3, 2010, Virginian-Pilot. In all slightly more than 23,000 students enrolled at ODU for the 2010-2011 school year.

In addition, ODU employees nearly 1,700 professors, information technology professionals, executive assistants and maintenance personnel. So on any given day between late August and early May, some 25,000 people may be on campus or driving or walking to and from it. Protecting those students and staff has become an increasing concern.

The Pilot article notes, "[ODU’s] growth hasn’t come without pains. Residents in nearby Lamberts Point and Larchmont have complained of an increasing number of off-campus parties. … A rash of high-profile crimes on and around campus has worried students and prompted the city to propose a new police substation in Lamberts Point." These crimes have mostly been robberies and burglaries, but official statistics for on-campus and neighborhood crimes compiled by the ODU Police Department also show negligent manslaughters, arsons and a disturbingly high number of rapes.

A university has the highest duty to protect students in dorms, especially those under 18. School officials must also ensure that buildings and sidewalks do not pose slip and fall hazards; that campus streets and parking lots are well-maintained, patrolled and crime-free; and that anyone accused of injuring a student or staff member gets investigated and, if warranted, arrested and punished.

ODU has worked with the Norfolk Police Department, the city and the state to make safety a principal concern as the school has grown. Those cooperative efforts must continue. Especially since, as a long-term resident of the Larchmont neighborhood, I am so excited by the growth and energy at the school. Walking to a football game or the Ted for hoops is fun and makes one feel like a Monarch even if you did not attend the university. But the increased foot and vehicle traffic does concern me as a parent worrying about cars or trucks hitting students on bikes or walking around as pedestrians.

EJL

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Virginia Injury Attorneys Blog and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.