Hestness, Aurora director to focus on safety awareness

by Britt Johnsen

The abduction and sexual assault of a female University student on Sept. 25 is prompting officials to discuss campus safety and security.

Greg Hestness, assistant vice president for public safety, and Aurora Center director Jamie Tiedemann will meet Tuesday to discuss how the University can raise student awareness of crime and safety.

“A lot of caution needs to be raised,” Hestness said. Getting students to think about the issues will result in better personal safety, he said.

Tiedemann said although she and other Aurora Center employees meet regularly with University police to discuss safety and crime, this meeting will focus on new projects to get students to think about safety.

“(The meeting) will be a golden opportunity,” Tiedemann said. “We’re going to do as much as we can.”

Tiedemann and Hestness plan to put posters with safety suggestions and resources in campus bathroom stalls.

The posters will include the names and phone numbers of the Aurora Center, University police, Boynton Health Service and residence halls.

“I just want people to be aware we’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Tiedemann said. The community has a role to play in safety, Tiedemann said.

Both Hestness and Tiedemann said being aware of surroundings at all times is an important safety measure students should take.

“I think students universally feel safe, but I think they don’t feel vulnerable, either,” Tiedemann said. “It’s a challenge when students feel invincible, and we need to be more thoughtful of that.”

While the posters will appear in campus bathrooms later this semester, Hestness said the escort service – which provides a campus security escort 24 hours a day, within a mile of campus – are also useful resources.

He said 21 emergency phones on campus and 25 phones in parking ramps also connect directly to police.

Some students, however, said they are already taking precautions.

“It scares me,” first-year student Lisa Spinelli said. “I grew up in a small town. I never thought about it before.”

Spinelli said she noticed a difference among people in Territorial Hall since the abduction and said more students are locking doors and traveling in groups.

“People are definitely more aware of (their safety),” Spinelli said.

At least one female student, however, took precaution even further. On Sept. 27, she heard a man yell to her in a parking ramp near Territorial Hall.

The student thought she was in danger and ran to Territorial Hall, with the man right behind her. When she arrived she called the police, and residents said officials told them to stay in their rooms and lock their doors.

University police Capt. Steve Johnson said it was a false alarm, and the man who followed her was a Territorial Hall employee who recognized the woman and wanted to say hello.

Johnson said the woman’s reaction was related to the focus on heightened awareness on campus.

“People are more concerned if they believe there is more danger in the area,” Johnson said. Any other day, she might have done something different, he said.

Other students said even with increased awareness, they have to stay realistic and calm.

“(Crimes) could happen anywhere at any time,” first-year student Kari Woehrle said. “There’s nothing else we can do. There are bad people everywhere.”

Johnson said the University police will participate in forums and other discussions with students about what can be done to make campus safer.

“Awareness is your best measure for prevention and safety,” Johnson said.