Who Is Killing Our College Students?

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The college campus is not always a safe place even though ivy-covered buildings, pristine academic buildings and well manicured lawns and beautiful gardens might suggest otherwise. One or more killers may be on the loose, but they aren’t always like Seung-hui Cho, the serial murderer behind the April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Nor are they usually known beyond the communities where they operate.

No school is immune from violence. By law, every college must notify students about on campus criminal activity.

Here on SayCampusLife we would love to focus exclusively on the nicer things of college living, but then we would fail at our duty to report the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of college life. We are parents, students, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, but above all people who have a stake in academia. No one wants college students to be exposed to harm, but unfortunately from time to time a student or faculty member has his or her life taken away by force.

Clery Act

College administrators haven’t always proved helpful when protecting students. In 1986, a Lehigh University freshman—Jeanne Clery—was raped and murdered in her campus residence hall. Her parents subsequently discovered that students hadn’t been told about 38 other violent crimes that occurred on Lehigh’s campus over a three year period leading up to Jeanne’s death. With the help of other campus crime victims the Clerys persuaded Congress to pass the “Clery Act” which requires schools to warn students of campus crimes or risk facing fines.

Eastern Michigan University (ESU) violated the Clery Act in when they withheld information about the December 2006 dorm room rape and murder of Laura Dickinson. School officials said that Laura had died naturally although evidence strongly indicated otherwise. Laura’s naked body was discovered by a university janitor with a pillow over her head and semen on her leg.

It wasn’t until ten weeks had passed before the full story was made known as her murder, Orange Taylor III, was apprehended. Taylor was later convicted and sentenced. ESU was fined and its president, John A. Fallon, was fired.

Recent Deaths

Not every death of a college student takes place on campus with some occurring nearby. Quite a few cases remain unsolved and have long grown cold, an unimaginable burden for grieving parents, family members, friends, and loved ones.

Earlier this week Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY announced the death of Marissa Pagli. An avid volleyball player, Marissa was a freshman who died in the on-campus staff housing where she lived with her parents. Officials are treating the incident as an isolated incident suggesting that her death involved a family component.

Virginia Tech grad student Xin Yang had arrived from China only two weeks earlier when she was found decapitated in January 2009. Her alleged killer, 25 year old Haiyang Zhu, was also from a China and pursuing his graduate degree at the university.

Security On Campus

Jeanne Clery’s parents, Connie and Howard, went on to start Security On Campus, Inc., which describes itself as “…a unique 501(c)(3) non-profit grass roots organization dedicated to safe campuses for college and university students.” Their website is a good resource for students, parents and educators wanting to know more about campus safety issues and related news.

You can find out more information about this organization here:

Security On Campus, Inc.
133 Ivy Lane, Suite 200
King Of Prussia, PA 19406-2101
(888) 251-7959
securityoncampus.org

References

ABC News: School Accused of Covering Up Student’s Murder

e2Campus: Prevent Another Tragedy

Resources

SayCampusLife: Campus Emergency Notification Requirement Now Law

Security on Campus: The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act

Photo Credit: Harrison Keely

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Categories: Campus News