Halfway across the world, Xizhou Zhou ’05 heard warnings about New Haven. At high school in China, her teachers told her that it was a dangerous city. But Zhou said that the reality wasn’t so bad.
“I’ve been here for almost a year but never felt unsafe,” Zhou said.
It’s no secret that New Haven has a mixed reputation, and that many incoming freshmen and their parents are concerned about student safety. But it’s also no secret that in New Haven, like everywhere else, common sense is the best defense against trouble.
Living on an urban campus does require some caution. The city is a different environment than what many incoming students are accustomed to.
“New Haven is a real city, not just Yale’s campus, that has the same problems and issues that a normal city has,” Leslie Oestreicher ’02 said.
You’ll probably end up learning a lot over four years at Yale, but some of the most important lessons will be the simplest. You can stay safe by remembering a few pieces of advice.
1. Be aware of your surroundings.
There is certainly a distinction between the central campus and the surrounding streets.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leave Old Campus. Yale makes an enormous effort to provide safe means of venturing off campus.
A minibus runs through the entire night and will come to pick up students from anywhere in New Haven to drive them back to campus.
An escort service that can easily be called from any campus phone or blue phone provides police to walk you around campus.
Whether it’s a late night at the library before a big exam or a workout at the gym that ends after dark, an escort will come immediately upon receiving the call to walk students anywhere. To reach it from a campus phone, just dial 2-WALK — that’s 432-WALK from any other phone.
Yale also has a university police force consisting of over 70 officers.
2. Don’t walk alone at night.
Like most Yalies, Ian Anderson ’02 said that problems are easily avoided.
“Stay in well-lit sections of the city at night if you are traveling to and from off-campus locations,” he said. “If that’s not possible, walk in groups.”
3. Don’t overreact.
Despite whatever you may have heard, almost all Yale students have four safe years in the city. Many students say that negative stereotypes of New Haven just that — stereotypes.
Some students said they are very comfortable in the city and are willing to take risks.
Samuel An ’03 said he takes midnight jogs around campus and up Science Hill.
“It’s pretty quiet, and the few people that I pass have never given me cause for alarm,” he said.
Students from smaller towns can be alarmed by being asked for spare change on the way to class.
“When around the homeless don’t be manipulated by fear or guilt, just be real,” An said. “Give if you want to, say no if you don’t. I think that most of us feel vulnerable every once in a while. So, for us to feel more at ease, I think being respectful but decisive in our interaction is key.”
4. Check it out when you get to campus.
All of these tips will be repeated in countless fliers, orientation packets and information booklets. Listen to them. Go to the information sessions. Read the fliers.
More important than knowing about your surroundings is actually knowing your surroundings. Go out into the city and explore it yourself to see what it’s like.
5. You’re at Yale — don’t be stupid.
Most problems happen when people forget the obvious. The great majority of problems are completely avoidable.
Susan Landino, a safety educator at Yale since 1999, is one of the experts. She advises new students to keep an eye on each other when they aren’t thinking for themselves.
“When you’re stressed out before a big test, or when you have partied too much, that’s when things happen,” Landino said. “Look out for your roommates, friends and yourself and avoid risky behavior.”
If you keep these simple tips in mind, surviving New Haven will be easy. Freshman chemistry and macroeconomics — well, good luck.