The Penguin’s guide to staying safe

By Jillian McIntosh

College campuses are a place where students are at risk of being victimized. Youngstown State University officials advise students to be proactive about their safety in social settings.

Dana Lantz, director of Equal Opportunity, Policy Development and Title IX, said the tampering of drinks is a concern she and her staff take seriously. 

“Drink out of sealed containers that you open, travel with your friends and have a designated driver that can act as a bystander,” she said. “Never leave a drink unattended or take from other people.”

According to YSU nursing instructor Teresa Peck, a registered nurse with a Master of Science in nursing, it’s difficult to recognize if someone has been drugged when under the influence. Students should take precautions and understand how to recognize the following symptoms. 

  • Feeling overly tired or going in and out of consciousness 
  • Feeling drunker than you would expect for what you have had to drink
  • Slurring of speech
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting 
  • Confusion or loss of memory upon awakening

“If you notice your drink tastes funny, looks cloudy or changes color, or if you think you saw someone near or messing with your drink, do not drink and discard it,” she said. “Find a safe person immediately and tell them that your drink has been spiked.”

Lantz agrees, “Spiking drinks is something that we have to focus on preventing because after the fact, it’s too late.”

YSU police Chief Shawn Varso said there are reports of tampering of drinks at local bars in Youngstown.

 “On campus itself, we have not had any evidence of that happening,” he said.

The YSU Title IX office handles reports for many types of victimization, including assault and stalking, relationship stalking and discrimination on the basis of one’s sex or gender.

In cases of sexual harrassment, students can file a report to the YSU Title IX team by visiting Families of students, faculty, staff and community members can file a report as well. 

Lantz said stalking is an additional risk students should be aware of.

“We have seen some complaints of stalking or what appears to be capable of developing into stalking,” she said. “And they typically happen over social media, texting and phone.” 

Tracking devices, including Apple AirTags, can be used for stalking. The intended purpose of the device is to monitor the location of lost items. 

Varso said there have been no reports to YSU police of technology-based stalking.

He said if a student finds such a device, they should immediately contact the police department at 330-941-3527 or visit the station.

“We can take a look at the device. If it is an Apple AirTag, we may be able to identify the owner who purchased it,” Varso said. 

Apple released a software update that will notify the person by sound or iPhone alert if an unknown device is detected nearby. 

Students who own Android products can download the app AirGuard. The app periodically scans for nearby tracking devices.