The past year has been brutal. There are only so many disasters that we can take, and between the pandemic, police brutality, mass shootings, hurricanes and the Husch Blackwell report, I really thought the residents of Baton Rouge had gotten through the worst of it — but then this next wave hit.
Our students, it seems, are suddenly in grave danger. Local news outlets are currently overflowing with reports of students dying or being attacked or assaulted. One student was stabbed at Southeastern, another student had her door kicked down by her Uber driver, a third student was stabbed and bitten by another student in an attempted carjacking.
While the perpetrators have been arrested in all three of these cases, the atmosphere of fear on campus remains at large.
The tragic news of the deaths of Kori Gauthier and Layne Gravois hit our community hard, especially amid the onslaught of violence terrorizing our campus, which prevented many students from having the time or the mental capacity to process the grief.
As if this sudden terror wasn’t bad enough, a rumor has started circling campus of a serial killer targeting young women. BRPD since released a statement advising the public to look to official sources and not social media for details about crimes and criminal activity, assuring the public that the previous cases are unrelated.
Regardless of if the alleged serial killer is real or not, it can’t come as a surprise to anyone that students are suddenly on edge and looking for danger everywhere they turn. Given the administration’s poor response to sexual assault and abuse allegations, most of us don’t exactly have high expectations of campus safety.
The University has proven that it does not genuinely care about the safety of its students. It cares about its reputation and public image, but not about bringing justice for those who have been wronged or even about preventing future tragedies.
After the crazy few weeks we’ve had, the University still hasn’t said anything about increasing security on campus, putting in place new policies or creating new resources for students in danger. While I understand those things take time to begin and feel that the stated intention to do so is still a major step towards healing the relationship between the University and its students, officials have not yet made a good faith attempt to even begin implementing new safety measures.
Scrolling through the University’s official Twitter account, it’s hard to imagine that anything could be out of the ordinary. Posts about a summer tuition discount and alumni statistics disguise the retweet from Tom Galligan about Kori’s death and the post containing a link to WBRZ’s article on the rumors going around campus.
The University has proven not only that it is an increasingly unsafe place for students to live, work and exist, but also that it doesn’t care. No amount of discounts on summer sessions is going to make the University any safer or make students any more willing to risk their lives to live or work on campus.
It’s time for the University to actually make some changes. We have seen too many copouts this semester alone and we need to see some real changes. LSU, when are you going to step up to protect your students? We are being attacked on your campus and you are failing to do anything. You’re failing us. Do better.
Marie Plunkett is a 22-year-old classical studies senior from New Orleans.