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As I was walking back from an Amnesty International meeting one night on campus, I saw an older man walking behind me in a dark, remote area.

The buses had stopped running. No street lights were present. I had no one to accompany me to my dorm. I began to walk more swiftly. "What do I do if he approaches or attacks me? I’m not ready to handle this," I thought. Panic quickly settled in. Although I made it home safe, that panic is commonplace for many college students nowadays.

The University of Georgia: 465 buildings, 762 acres, 39,147 students. Our beautiful campus is vast, a scope beyond what most students are prepared to take on. With this beauty and openness enters the issue of student safety.

Universities have the resources to provide accessible self-defense classes for all students and should ardently do so to improve the safety of the student body.

Most campuses, including UGA’s, are ungated, allowing for virtually anyone and everyone to pass through without any security measures or verification. Armed individuals have often roamed the same streets as students. Robberies are not uncommon. Blue light emergency buttons are becoming obsolete from lack of use both at UGA and other institutions.

Now more than ever, students deserve to feel able and prepared to defend themselves against perpetrators of any type. Regardless of gender, size or strength, there is no better protection mechanism than confidence in knowing we can fend for ourselves.

As a 21-year-old college student myself, I’ve often put off attending self-defense training for one simple reason: It’s not easily attainable. Classes are either a long drive away or just not available. I’m certainly not alone in this.

Just because I haven’t yet attended a proper self-defense course does not mean that I’m not interested in doing so. Given how much time students spend on campus, it would only make sense for these institutions to offer courses or resources in self-defense. After all, a safe student population is a safe university. It's in everyone’s best interest and should be UGA’s highest priority.

Currently, only one for-credit self-defense course is offered at UGA. Although it’s a start, it’s simply insufficient. Advisors should educate incoming freshmen on the importance of enrolling in a self-defense course. Orientation could include guidance for incoming students to either register for the official class or at least seek out clubs that are oriented towards self-defense. 

There are many universities who have already adopted this mindset, and students are certainly adapting well to the increased accessibility to self defense. Temple University, for example, offers courses that are “a mix of physical skills and life lessons,” not only for fun, but also as an incorporated component of students’ academic journeys. From sexual assault aggression techniques to the “Buy Yourself a Minute” approach, professors nationwide are becoming more and more invested in bolstering campus safety at the individual level.

Simply put, UGA ought to start doing the same. Although Athens is not the biggest town, there are about 500 annual violent crimes that occur, according to NeighborhoodScout – incidences that can and often affect UGA students. That’s 500 instances of terror and trauma that could be curtailed with effective self-defense. Unfortunately, the years of 2012-2017 presented a rise in violent crime, making the case for widespread training even more relevant.

Unsurprisingly, arguments against college self-defense training cite cost as a major obstacle. Hiring qualified teachers costs money. Scheduling and finding locations for the courses costs money and eats up time. The training itself must be paid for somehow, either by the university or within student tuition.

While valid, these oppositions fail to recognize the inherent value in protecting our student population. What is more important: saving money or empowering students to protect themselves? I argue the latter, and UGA would do well to follow suit.

Nevertheless, any student can benefit from accessible self-defense training. Any student can use that invaluable knowledge for the rest of their lives. Why not provide us with the resources to do just that? To UGA’s administration, I leave you with this: Put safety over money. In the end, your student body will thank you for it.