I walked through LSU’s Enchanted Forest the night of the Bacchus parade. The night was dark. One required a keen eye to recognize the cascading live oak tentacles.
Ahead, there was a father and his about 4-year-old daughter immersed in a game of tag. The father ran after the girl. When he caught her, instead of tagging her, he slowed himself to narrowly miss. The girl squealed in delight as she bobbed under the impending tag.
“You can’t catch me, Daddy,” she said.
The girl bolted from tree to tree without rest. Eventually though, the father grew tired, placing his hands on his hips. The girl vanished from the father’s sight into the darkness of the mighty oak grove.
“Don’t get too far or the rougarou will get you,” the father yelled out.
The rougarou did not attack that innocent little girl. However, a monster did attack another innocent girl that night, and that monster attacks 25% of girls on college campuses.
That monster is sexual assault.
Police say Jerrell Rodgers drove an LSU student to her dorm after the Bacchus parade. Instead of letting her out of his car, he allegedly locked the car doors and raped her.
The LSU administration has not done enough to decrease the likelihood of rape and sexual assault. Campus is too dark, police presence is not strong enough and LSU often neglects to alert its student body of major area crimes.
In 2017, a grand jury indicted Frank Herrera Jr. for the kidnapping, robbing and rape of an LSU student in the Greek parking lot next to the UREC. After the event, WBRZ ran a report on students pleading for more lighting on campus. LSU committed to providing more lights, but the changes made are not significant enough. Darkness still spreads through prominent areas like around the LSU Student Union and the Quad.
LSU notified students of the rape on campus in 2017 through its emergency text system. I learned of the rape in March from a friend, who learned of the rape from the LSU Parent’s Facebook page. LSU also did not inform the student body of the alleged rape on March 24 or of the two dead bodies found just off campus on April 1.
Maybe LSU is more reluctant to send messages about crimes after the armed robbery in January renewed campus safety concerns. These concerns should be reason for more transparency, not less, especially when the crime is as serious as rape.
I do not think it is too much to ask that students living, working and schooling on this campus be privy to major crimes.
Rape and sexual violence are not the only reasons for students to be concerned. In the three years I have been at LSU, robberies on campus, Tigerland and other surrounding areas are an alarmingly regular occurrence. In 2018, after back-to-back nights of armed robberies on campus, LSU pledged to increase police patrols, but the increased patrols do not achieve their goal of making students feel safe.
LSUPD officers park at the same spots on campus each night. Often, I see our officers in their cars, windows down, chatting with each other. Or, I find a cop car pulled off on a side street sitting comfortably watching videos or Netflix on his laptop.
Maybe campus would be safer if the police stopped watching the monsters on the re-runs of Stranger Things and instead watched for the monsters on campus.
Students elected William Jewell and Taylor Scott as the University's new Student Government president and vice president. Their platform emphasized campus safety as a selling point to their campaign. Now is the time to put words into action.
Austin Howton is a 21-year-old mass communication senior from Belvidere, Tennessee and member of Tigers Against Sexual Assault.