Recognizing signs of distress and campus safety

Early in the morning of September 13, 18-year-old Hannah Graham was abducted in a seemingly safe and quiet college town that would appear strikingly similar to Huntsville. Despite its small-town, welcoming feel, Charlottesville, Virginia, has had at least four female students of the University of Virginia go missing since 2009 alone.  According to ABC Online, in 2009, the remains of Morgan Harrington, a female student who was attending a school concert prior to her abduction, were discovered on a Virginia farm and today no arrest has yet been made. Police are investigating if the disappearances are connected.

Following the disappearance of Hannah Graham, the university has increased patrols and expanded the hours of the late-night transportation service for students. The University of Virginia should have already enforced top-of-the-line safety after the first disappearance of a student. I think that a red flag definitely should have gone up after the first missing person incident and prompted the university to make security improvements immediately. It should not have taken five years, four missing students, and four broken families to finally make enough of an impact for the school to notice the security problem. Having a reputation for poor student safety, is not good for a university. Normally, a university would do everything in its power to rid itself of this damaging reputation.

MSN News reported that the lead suspect in this case is not only a local citizen, but an employee of the University of Virginia Medical Center. Police arrested Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. for abduction and attempt to defile after finding evidence in his sister’s car and his apartment. The case is not yet closed, and the search for Hannah Graham is ongoing.

Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was hired by the University of Virginia in 2012 with two assault charges along with several other convictions. A university should not hire anyone with a criminal record, especially, to work with or around its students. Allowing a felon to work around college aged kids is asking for trouble. The University of Virginia should have paid closer attention to background checks and behavior of its employees. The university should feel a sense of guilt for not doing all that could have been done to prevent this.

Though Hannah Graham is not suspected to have been abducted on campus, there could have been a significantly lower chance of her abduction if the university had provided a service for its students accessible during her time of abduction. Late Wednesday afternoon, police arrested 32 –year-old Jesse Matthew in Galveston, Texas. He is suspected of taking part in the kidnapping and is being transported back to Virginia.

Sam Houston students are fortunate to attend a safe university that offers a 24 hour escort service for its students without a reputation for having a large number of disappearances. Also, Sam Houston provides easily distinguished emergency buttons all over campus in case of any emergency no matter the time. Sam Houston students are each issued a student card that allows them to access only the dorms in which they reside. I think that because everyone knows about the high level of security Sam Houston possesses, less attempts at abduction and other illegal acts take place.

The University of Virginia is not a small college and could easily afford to provide all types of campus security like Sam Houston. Student safety should be top priority, especially, after gaining a reputation for missing females with no return. The University of Virginia should have updated its security and accommodated to the growing demands of society long ago. This incident could have simply been prevented if the University of Virginia had been considerate of its students’ safety.

The parents of University of Virginia students deserve to be concerned about the dangers possibly awaiting their children. Hannah Graham’s abduction has been highly publicized and will most likely damage the number of next year’s incoming freshmen for the university. Town and campus safety plays an important factor in both parents’ and students’ decisions as to which university to attend. No father is going to feel comfortable sending his daughter to the University of Virginia again until security is drastically improved.

I think students everywhere will be thinking more cautiously such as traveling in pairs, carry mace or pepper spray and being aware of their surroundings after hearing of Hannah Graham. There are services available where a student or faculty member can escort you safely to your dorm or car. My advice to is to always be aware of your surroundings and take every precaution in order to prevent a situation such as that of Hannah Graham.

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