On Tuesday, the Safe Campus Coalition gathered on the Illinois State University Quad for their first "Better Safe than Dead" rally. The SCC was rallying in response to the attempted abduction and stalking claims that occurred around campus earlier in the semester.
The SCC defines itself as a small group of ISU students who feel the campus police have been negligent toward campus safety. The group is advocating for change that they believe will make ISU’s campus safer for all students.
The SCC is not currently a registered student organization.
During the rally, students advocated for more open communication between ISU police and the campus community, as well as increasing the overall safety of campus.
Junior psychology major Austin Kowalczyk supported the SCC’s rally by giving an opening statement to attract attention to their cause.
“I am dumbfounded by how many [ISU Crime Advisory] emails I've been getting,” Kowalczyk said. “And it scares me because they get closer and closer to all of my friends on campus. We are Redbirds. We have to look out for one another.”
Following Kowalczyk’s statement, sophomore history major Erin Wilcox took the megaphone and began reading a speech she had prepared addressing the recent abductions and harassment claims around campus.
Wilcox organized the SCC and the rally alongside a small group of students.
“We have been radicalized in the face of fear and danger that Illinois State University students face on an everyday basis and we are radicalized because no one is doing anything about it,” Wilcox said.
“That’s kind of bogus, right, that no one’s caring about our safety here on campus.”
Wilcox called for people to "get mad," saying that ISU police have done very little about the allegations of stalking and attempted abduction around campus.
Senior psychology major Nicole Roach contributed her concerns about campus safety to the rally in a speech that she gave.
"The Illinois State University Police's responses regarding the increase of suspicious activity around campus has been condescending, callous and disappointing," Roach said. "When we applied to this university, we were told that we are safe on campus. In reality, that's not really the case."
Roach claimed that many students around campus would not have had knowledge of the suspicious behavior on campus had it not been for social media posts because campus police did not accurately report the crimes.
“[ISU Police] shouldn't be standing around, just waiting for things to happen before they decide to take it seriously,” Roach said.
“It seems like all that ISUPD has done in response to our concerns is gaslight and belittle us. All they have done for us is to tell us to stay aware of our surroundings and stick to well-lit places, things that people have been telling us for our entire lives.”
After the speeches were given, ISU Police Sergeant Tammy Peasley and her partner approached the small rally group and asked that they refrain from using their megaphone on the Quad as it is against ISU policy without the appropriate permission and permit.
Peasley proceeded to ask the rallying students if they had any questions or topics that they would like to discuss with her. Wilcox stepped forward and began asking Peasley questions regarding campus safety.
Peasley, who has worked as an ISU police officer for about 20 years, explained how she has worked throughout her career to improve lighting, camera coverage and the overall safety of the Quad and surrounding campus areas.
Peasley told SCC members that cameras around campus function more as surveillance after a crime rather than as a preventative measure.
As for the blue emergency lights, she explained how the contacted and dispatched officers respond to a light being activated. Peasley explained that in a scenario where a student is being actively pursued, hitting multiple blue emergency lights is more than acceptable.
She also explained resources on campus to help students feel safe, including safe training seminars and safe walks.
Dean of Students John Davenport also made an appearance at the rally and contributed to the conversation between Peasley and the students gathered for the rally.
Davenport listened to what the SCC had to say and asked them for input on improving campus safety.
He also explained the campus walks that are currently happening on Thursday nights to help authorities identify dark, and potentially unsafe areas of campus.
Students were also concerned about the communication of safety concerns, such as the recent abduction and stalking claims and the lack of respect surrounding the way these claims were communicated.
Davenport said he understood but also emphasized that ISU must balance supporting the people who come forward to share their experiences with making sure that they are sharing facts with the community.
The SCC group asked questions and had a conversation with Peasley and Davenport where they received answers to their questions, expressed their concerns and gave input on how they thought campus safety could be improved.
SCC plans to continue advocating for improved campus safety, and more open communication between the ISU community and the campus police.