Continuous learning is critical to many facets of our lives. Nowhere is that more apparent than during the college experience. Learning occurs as part of our academic, social and mental maturity and guides our development as responsible adults. In public safety, we utilize an After Action Review process to assess critical incidents, planned events and spontaneous occurrences to learn what went well and how we can improve.
I would like to share a few important “lessons learned” that will assist us all in growing together to impact overall campus safety, security and risk reduction.
We know the dangers associated with drinks being spiked with various types of substances. This behavior creates very dangerous situations for the person drugged. Having your drink spiked can lead to physical impairment that renders one incapable of normal mobility functions. It also causes cognitive incapacitation that removes one’s ability to make reasonable decisions or remember details of events. The outcome of these impairments is often associated with sexual assault or other physical harm.
While we warn students about the potential for this behavior regularly, during the last semester our colleagues in the Clemson City Police Department had two active investigations alleging this activity occurring in downtown establishments. Therefore, it is critical we reinforce this information to heighten awareness, so you can protect yourself and others from being a victim of this behavior.
It is vital that you follow a few easy steps to protect yourself:
- Do not take drinks from strangers.
- Never leave your drink unattended; keep it close to you.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the behaviors of those around you, especially in nightlife venues where alcohol is the most prevalent beverage.
- Be an active bystander. Keep an eye on your friends’ drinks. If you see someone contaminating a drink, get a description, warn individuals who may be impacted, alert venue management and report the incident to police. If you can safely take a picture of the subject involved, that will be valuable information and can help police stop the subject from harming others.
There are many horror stories about individuals becoming targets of predators who use drugs to incapacitate their victims. We can all learn from these lessons and take actions to protect ourselves and others from this criminal behavior.
Another frequently occurring incident can provide a lessons-learned opportunity. Between TikTok challenges and what some have described as a tradition, we have charged and arrested several individuals for stealing EXIT signs inside residential halls and destroying property such as soap dispensers and bathroom fixtures. It is difficult to understand why anyone would believe this is an appropriate behavior; however, it occurs all too often and causes thousands of dollars in damage each semester.
While the cost is important, the greater concerns connected to the damage and theft is the potential danger it creates for students and staff who live and work in residential communities, as well as police and firefighters who may respond to emergency situations. This behavior creates real dangers in the event of an emergency and could result in individuals or first responders being trapped inside buildings without appropriate warning signs. Based on our interviews with those caught and charged with this crime — including several charged with felonies — they believe this was a harmless prank that did not really have any negative impacts. This is far from the truth! Every student living on campus should be angry about the behavior of their peers committing these acts that place them at risk and require limited funding to be spent to replace these signs.
The police department takes these incidents very seriously and offenders will face criminal charges and student conduct consequences. Along with our investigative efforts, I am asking all students to aid us in stopping this harmful and potentially dangerous behavior by communicating to friends and associates this behavior is wrong and providing information — even anonymously — regarding those who are placing you and others at risk.
Finally, I want to ask for your assistance in helping me prevent tragedies relating to drug overdoses and suicide.
Regularly, I receive bulletins from sources across the country warning of the potential dangers associated with counterfeit prescription pills. These pills appear to be legitimate; however, they are manufactured from fentanyl, a very powerful and deadly opioid, by illicit drug dealers. Our message is clear and simple. Don’t take any prescription drug that doesn’t come from a physician or pharmacy.
We know students often receive medication from friends or acquaintances; however, taking even one of these counterfeit pills could cause death or serious injury. Recently, we also received a bulletin regarding the first seizure of Delta-9 and marijuana laced with fentanyl, resulting in several opioid overdoses.
Bottom line here is you have no way to determine what you are consuming when purchasing or receiving drugs from an unknown source. While we all must make individual decisions, I believe it is important for you to have the facts so you can make informed decisions.
While the impacts of accidental drug overdoses are raising red flags, suicides are also a cause for alarm. The mental, emotional and physical impacts of COVID-19, along with many other societal stressors, has caused an alarming influence on our mental health. In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey completed in 2020 among 18-to-24-year-olds, about 25 percent of respondents had seriously considered suicide.
Clemson has not been immune to this national emergency, the second leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers and young adults according to the CDC in its most recent published data. We have experienced our own losses that have impacted many across campus. The question isn’t what the data shows; we know suicide is a serious problem. The question is: What can we do about it?
Here are some key actions we can take to help prevent suicide.
- Know warning signs.
- Speak up, be an active bystander. Don’t think someone else will step in to help.
- Don’t delay if there is an immediate risk for suicide. Contact the on-call CAPS counselor by calling 864-656-2222, file a CARE report or reach out to other University resources.
- Be familiar with resources available through Healthy Campus, CAPS and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Clemson’s public safety organizations are constantly using “lessons learned” to help us grow and better accomplish our mission of enhancing safety, reducing risk and preventing harm. Partner with us to prevent actions that negatively impact you and your peers. Together, we can make a difference and demonstrate what can be accomplished by working toward a common purpose.
I hope that you have a great Spring semester. If you have any questions or want to have an open, candid discussion about anything you have read, please reach out to the police department at 864-656-2222 and we will connect you with the appropriate person.
Gregory G. Mullen
Associate Vice President for Public Safety | Chief of Police