Campus responds to attacks
Students To Offer Protection strives to keep campus united despite recent sexual assaults
Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Updated: Monday, April 25, 2011 21:04
When Hunter Gierling heard about the Aug. 30 rape, he formed a Facebook group. He said, "When I started I figured that there was something that we could do. I wasn't sure what it was as a community but I knew there was something that we could do to help this out and I was mainly wanting to get people's opinion on different things. Different scenarios that we could play thru just as a whole how we could work, even with the police on it, just anything possible because it's just gotta stop."Three days later and with close to 2,000 online members, six students attended the first meeting for Students That Offer Protection (STOP). "There's a lot of stipulations you have to go thru, a lot of papers you have to fill out if you're going to do stuff on campus" said Gierling. The University recently granted STOP temporary organization status. Gierling said, "I think it's going to be a lot of fun, there's going to be some work to do."
Their group advisor, Communications Professor Van Horn, said, "They are very enthusiastic about this."
Gierling is from Union City, Tenn. and he said, "I don't know, it's just a close to home thing."
Carl Lowrence and Scottie Somerville, two friends Gierling has known since high school, are also involved in the effort to protect the community. In between classes, homework and jobs the three of them are working to not only gain permanent University recognition, but to find local businesses interested in supporting their cause.
One idea that Lowrence had was to raise enough money to offer women on campus and in the community free pepper spray and air horns. They are also interested in providing self-defense classes, counseling and involving other groups in a campus-wide escort service.
"I'm not sure how this is going to work yet with the self defense classes, but we do want to get those going and even if this guy gets caught within this week this would be a good thing just to have around in general. It's definitely a nice preventive way because no one thinks about these things like this, until a catastrophe like this happens," said Gierling.
University Center Director Steve Vantrease said, "I think it's great that a student is going to take responsibility for themselves and take responsibility and help others."
When the suspected rapist was in custody Gierling said, "I am completely relieved and hopefully this was the only guy working at it and he didn't have any accomplices or copy cats or anything. I hope this is the end for sure."
About forty members confirmed on Facebook to attend a meeting Wednesday, but only six attended.
"It's just starting, we have to have thirteen signatures to be a temporary organization." Gierling said he believed there were less people at the meeting because the suspected rapist was arrested, and people are starting to feel safe again.
David Taylor, coordinator of student organizations, said in his experience it takes an average of six months to become an official campus organization.
STOP had a booth at the football game Thursday and at Wal-Mart on Friday and Sunday to raise money and awareness of the organization.
The football game was when Dexter Johnson first heard of the new group, "I think it's great."
Gierling said that the football game was the "first push to getting people to come and see what we are really about".
STOP will meet Wednesday Aug. 9 at 7pm. The location is to be announced.