A Social Innovation Seed Fund Guest Blog: Understanding Students’ Perceptions of Physical Safety on SFU Campuses

This blog was written by the founders of Closing the Gaps, recipients of SFU Social Innovation Seed Funding in 2021.

A team of us from SFU’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program decided to take our course project beyond the classroom. As part of our Health Promotion (HSCI 855) course, we completed an equity-centred design project on a health promotion topic on campus. We teamed with Safety and Risk Services Chief Safety Officer and Embark Sustainability/RADIUS to create a survey to gather more data on students’ experiences with campus safety.

The purpose of our project was to improve experiences of safety on campus for students. The idea was inspired by an incident in October of 2019 where there was a fake gun threat on the Burnaby campus which left many students scared and confused. Our team reflected on this situation and thought we could use our equity-design process to look at how to improve students’ ability to access services and optimize safety for everyone on SFU campuses.

We learned there is a large number of services available to students and thought that knowledge about these services could be improved for SFU students. The more we dug into our project, the more we realized that our ideas on how to improve access and awareness to safety services had either already been attempted or were not focused on the real need for more student information. Each SFU campus also comes with its own unique locations, infrastructure, accessibility, and safety considerations, and this required us to think more critically about our project. Our team conducted a root-cause analysis and gathered feedback on three ideas we had to improve campus safety for priority groups (women, BIPOC, gender diverse, and disabled individuals). By the end of the process, we discovered there was a need to collect more information about students’ perceptions of safety on campus. Our recommendation was to create a survey for SFU students to provide for SFU Safety Services, who are keen to see a summary of results.

Although COVID-19 restrictions challenged us, our team was still able to connect with the Chief Safety Officer, receive ethics approval for the purpose of quality improvement, and circulate our survey to collect responses. Ideally, the project would be conducted without COVID-19 measures, which is also why we ask survey respondents to reflect on pre-COVID times on campus. However, our team is very grateful to have seen the project through even with all the challenges along the way. We hope our survey responses will offer valuable insight into various student perceptions for Safety and Risk Services at SFU.

For more information, feel free to check out our website!

Are you working on a great social or environmental impact project and need some money to help get started? Embark and RADIUS have partnered to provide funding in amounts ranging up to $2,000, depending on project size and budget, to SFU students. Learn more about the Social Innovation Seed Fund.