John Bello walked through downtown Rye with friends not worrying too much about the safety of his son at Tufts University near Boston, but he knows that hasn't been the case of Lauren Spierer's parents who are still searching for their daughter in Indiana."He's old enough and ought to be able to handle himself," Bello said of his son, 22, who is the youngest of his three children.Spierer, a 2009 graduate of nearby Edgemont High School, was last seen in the early morning hours of Friday, June 3 near Indiana University, where she is a sophomore.
Spierer's story has colleges throughout Westchester reflecting on how best to make sure students are safe both on and off their campuses.
All of Westchesters five residential colleges use similar methods to communicate with students, such as standard security lectures at orientations or e-mail and text message alerts, in the event of emergencies. However, there are still some unique measures taken in the county.
Mercy College officials said their safety office met regularly with students to keep them informed. They additionally use New York Alert to send safety updates to students' e-mail addresses and cell phones.
Iona College in New Rochelle works closely with the citys police department to monitor their off-campus residents, said Vice Provost for Student Development Charles J. Carlson.
"We have limited resources, but we feel the investment is worth it," Carlson said about the additional cost of protecting off-campus residents.
Carlson said Iona College works with New Rochelle police and off-duty officers on weekends to patrol on and off campus to ensure that students are respecting their neighbors and each other.
Purchase College in Harrison took a more on-the-ground approach to protecting students by increasing the number and visibility of emergency phones on campus. Director of Residence Life John Delate said the school has taken extra precautions in recent years that have only been reinforced by Spierer's disappearance.
"We don't want people paranoid, but they can't be complacent either," Delate said. "This incident happened in a relatively safe place."
Vice President of Manhattanville College Doug Geiger said his school sends direct messages to students to remind them of the dangers they could encounter.
"The thing we convey to our students is that theyre not immortal. They think they are, but theyre not," Geiger said. "Because of that, we have to instill in them that they need to think about their own safety and think about being aware of their surroundings."
Bello views Spierer's case a cautionary tale for young adults and highlights a need for more self-discipline."When you're out at 4:30 in the morning you're inviting trouble," he said. "Nothing good ever happens after 11 p.m."In raising his own children, Bello was a stern disciplinarian, and expects them to be responsible for their own safety now as adults."As a parent you can try to reason with them to be responsible," he said. "I just don't know how much control parents can have over their children after a certain age."
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