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.
For On-Campus Emergencies
University Police: (360) 650-3911
For emergencies anywhere else
Use the nationwide emergency number, 911. There are Emergency Telephones located across campus.
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. Safety Escorts are students who work with WWU police and provide walking escorts to all locations within Western's campus.
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.
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.
Students living in on-campus housing are strongly encouraged to review the Residential Community Standards on alcohol and drugs. These policies are quite strict and violations may result in eviction.
The Counseling and Wellness center has staff and resources to help students who feel they or someone they know is using substances in an unhealthy way (sometimes called addiction).
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.
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 Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance Office 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 Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance Office at (360) 650-3307. The Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance 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 Reporting Form.
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 Sexual Harassment & Sexual Violence website, which provides information about sexual/dating violence, reporting options, and resources for support.
Survivor Advocacy 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 Survivor Advocacy message line. The Survivor Advocacy 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 the Vice Provost for Equal Opportunity and Title IX/ADA Coordinator. More information about your rights under Title IX can be found on the Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance Office website.
Western is deeply committed to creating a campus community that supports healthy relationships and fosters a safe environment for everyone. All new Western students are required to take the Sexual Assault Prevention Online Training. For more information, visit Mandatory Sexual Assault Prevention training or call 360-650-7319.