Safety & Legal Issues
While it is unlikely that you will encounter any serious danger while you are in the US, it is important to be informed and aware of the safety resources and emergency procedures that are in place on the WWU campus. Please take the time to read through the Campus Safety Resources available to Western students. If you have any questions about safety issues or would like assistance accessing resources, please contact ISSS.
Like most US campuses, Western has its own police service. Western Washington University Police officers are commissioned by the State of Washington and hold the same powers and authority as other police officers in the state. Public Safety Assistants, also known as “Green Coats”, are students who work with WWU police and provide safety escorts.
For on-campus emergencies, call 360 650 3911 to reach University Police. For emergencies anywhere else, use the nationwide emergency number, 911. There are Emergency Telephones located across campus. For more information, see the Personal Safety booklet.
Western is prepared for many possible emergency situations. While it is highly unlikely that these situations will actually occur, the Western Emergency Preparedness video outlines how students can be prepared.
Students are strongly encouraged to sign up for the Western Alert system which enables them to receive notifications by text message in case of an emergency.
Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
Sexual assault on college and university campuses in the United States is a very real issue. Further, domestic violence is considered a very serious crime in the US. Students of all genders and identities should be aware of these issues and review WWU’s “Together Against Sexual Violence” website, which provides information about sexual/dating violence, reporting options, and resources for support.
CASAS and Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County provide assistance to people who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence. If you experience any form of sexual or dating violence, call the CASAS message line at (360) 650-3700. The CASAS website also has information and resources for survivors of violence.
If an incident of sexual assault or domestic violence occurs, you have reporting options, including the University Police at (360) 650-3911, the Bellingham Police Department at 911, the Office of Student Life at (360) 650-3706, and/or Sue Guenter-Schlesinger in the Equal Opportunity Office at (360) 650-3307. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger is Western’s Title IX Coordinator; more information about your rights under Title IX can be found on the Equal Opportunity Office website.
The mission of Western's Empowerment and Violence Education (WEAVE) is to promote empowerment for all genders, and to encourage discussion about issues of violence and equality. WEAVE offers students resources and opportunities to get involved in programs that are targeted towards ending relationship violence and sexual assault. WEAVE also provides support to survivors.
Discrimination and Sexual Harassment
You have the legal right to attend Western free from illegal harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, pregnancy, parenting status or genetic information.
Your legal rights include the right to be free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that interferes with a student’s educational experience or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment. Sexual harassment may take many forms, including comments about one’s body, unwanted touching, asking about sexual experiences, sharing intimate personal information, displaying sexual images, or sexual assault.
The Equal Opportunity Office, located in Old Main 345, serves students, faculty and staff in ensuring that the campus climate is free from discrimination and harassment. To discuss a concern or make a complaint about discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, contact the Equal Opportunity Office at (360) 650-3307. The Equal Opportunity Office website contains links to Western’s policies regarding discrimination and sexual harassment, and the Discrimination Complaint Procedure. Students wishing to anonymously report incidents of bias or discrimination may use the Bias Incident Reporting Form.
The following Western offices offer additional support for students:
- Counseling Center
- Dean of Students Office
- Ethnic Student Center
- Associated Students Resource and Outreach Programs (including the Disability Outreach Center, Queer Resource Center, Sexual Awareness Center, and Women’s Center)
LGBTQ Safe Zones
The LGBTQ Safe Zone Program is a visible network of volunteers who are committed to creating a community of respect and dignity for students, staff, and faculty who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning. Safe Zone makes it possible to easily identify allies at Western -- individuals who are committed to creating an environment in which all people are free to thrive academically, professionally, and personally.
Gun control is one of the most contentious political issues in the United States and attitudes toward firearms vary greatly -- while many Americans do own guns, many have nothing to do with them. Many gun laws are made at the state level, resulting in different regulations across the country. Most police officers carry guns, but only ever use them in extreme situations. Firearms are not permitted on the Western campus, except in the case of law enforcement officers. Students and scholars in non-immigrant visa statuses are not permitted to possess firearms in the United States without first seeking special permission from the government.
Alcohol & Drugs
The US has strict laws around the purchase, distribution, and consumption of alcohol. Persons under age 21 may not buy, possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any alcoholic beverage. Many bars, breweries, and clubs are 21+ venues and will require ID at the door.
In 2012, Washington State voters approved Initiative 502, which legalized small amounts of marijuana-related products for adults 21 and over. Alaska, Oregon, and Colorado have also passed similar laws. Possessing or using any amount of marijuana, no matter your age, is still illegal under federal law. This means that federal authorities like the FBI can still prosecute you for marijuana possession, and you could face prison or deportation. Possessing or using marijuana also remains illegal on the WWU campus and many other designated "drug-free" areas like schools and national parks. We therefore strongly recommend that you neither possess nor use marijuana while in the US. Even if other students tell you it is legal, remember that as an international student you are already under government scrutiny and at an increased risk to face consequences for marijuana possession under federal law.
ADCAS is a confidential service for Western students who want help regarding their own or someone else's use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs (illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter). ADCAS staff assist students in making their own informed choices about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use and related (personal, physical, social, academic, and legal) risks so they can enjoy their college experience and minimize unwanted and unintended consequences.