Safety on campus: What is being done?

Nicole Yeager, Assistant News Editor

On Saturday, Sept. 5, an attempted abduction of a female University student was reported. An email was sent out at 3:38 a.m. approximately one hour after the incident was reported and 1.5 hours after the incident occurred, alerting the campus and giving notice of the reported details. At approximately 1 a.m., two male individuals in a dark-colored SUV, one of them described as a bald middle-aged man, approached a female student and attempted to place her in the vehicle.

The email was in compliance with the “Timely Notice” provision of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998, which requires the Department of Public Safety to give notice of acts of violence that are reported on the University campus. The email also requested anyone who sees anyone matching the description, or anyone acting suspiciously, to contact Public Safety. The email reminded all students to avoid walking alone at night. It also shared that they were “actively investigating” the case.

Talk of this incident quickly spread across the student body by Saturday morning, and it has sparked a heightened sense of apprehension and alertness throughout the University community.  

At 8:43 p.m. on Saturday evening another email was sent out with updates on the previous information. It read: “After further investigation, the incident was determined to have occurred at approximately 1:11 a.m. near the intersection of South 6th and St. Catherine Streets in the Borough of Lewisburg. This location is off-campus and within the jurisdiction of the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department. Bucknell Public Safety is assisting the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department in attempting to identify the parties involved.” Again, a phone number was listed to contact with any information or concerns.

Since Saturday, there have been various other stories, comments and pieces of information circulating among students. Some of these include shared accounts about various incidents that have occurred in Lewisburg and Selinsgrove, as well as information potentially related to nearby human trafficking. Additionally, a few on-campus students have reported suspicious activity around their dorms and buildings earlier in the week. Students and faculty have been actively seeking out information, communicating with each other and voicing their concerns, questions and suggestions to those in authority.

Chief of Public Safety Steve Barilar sent another email to all members of the campus community on Tuesday, Sept. 9. This email publicly announced that “Public Safety continues to work closely with the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department (BVRPD).” The email also shared the ways in which Public Safety is currently working to keep our community safe and secure: increasing Public Safety presence on campus through patrolling, specifically around residence halls after dark; increasing camera locations around residence halls; conducting security surveys for on or off-campus student housing, which can be scheduled by calling Public Safety; and improving lighting on campus. Additionally, the email outlined ways in which students can help protect themselves and the larger community themselves: keep all doors and windows in your room, apartment or house locked, don’t let others into your residence hall, report suspicious behavior, and take safety precautions when traveling at night by walking with others and staying on lit paths, taking note of the Blue Light Emergency Phones on campus and utilizing Public Safety’s free safe escort service.

In light of these recent events, students and faculty alike have been sharing information and resources in order to keep fellow students and peers feeling safe on campus. Friends and roommates are ensuring they stay aware of each others’ whereabouts and keeping tabs on each other. Teams, clubs and other organizations are reaching out to each other as additional emergency contacts. A few fraternities have stepped up to be available for their female peers as drivers or escorts, and all individuals are prioritizing their knowledge on how to stay alert and protect themselves.

Students also took to Instagram urging others to be cautious and sharing Public Safety’s phone number. Paige Stewart ’21 authored one of the frequently shared Instagram storied, advising students to “not walk around by yourself after dark. Walk with keys out if you’re near the street downhill” and to “make absolutely sure you can locate the closest blue light.” 

“As someone already cautious by nature, but also not particularly fearful, I’ve still taken significantly more steps than usual to ensure my safety and my friends’ safety since learning about the abduction attempt and the trespassing into Vedder (never wearing headphones outside, double-checking our door and all our windows are locked at all times, no longer walking outside after dark),” said Stewart.

More importantly, these recent events have made the campus community more aware of societal dangers. “I think it’s horrifying that we’re being faced with the reality of this violence the way we are, but I also think it’s really, really important. We, as Bucknell students, have been able to virtually ignore dangers because we believe we exist in a bubble, and that is simply not the case,” said Stewart.

Students are nonetheless committed to creating a safer campus environment. As Emma Stone ’22 aptly puts it, “we should all continue to strive for this safer environment going forward, by learning how to protect yourself and loved ones as well as learning how to foster a sense of safety within your own actions.”

“As individuals, and as a community, I hope everyone understands that we have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by being more cautious, checking on our friends, sharing our locations with someone we trust, not letting strangers into our dorms, calling Public Safety to escort us home if we’re out after dark, or taking any number of other precautions to ensure safety,” added Stewart.

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