Tragedies spur discussion on how to stay safe while away at college

Demi Ellenbogen, Features Editor

In the fall, seniors will begin a new chapter of their lives. While entering college is an exciting experience, there is an immense amount of responsibility that comes with it. In light of the recent deaths of college students Samantha Josephson and Timothy Piazza, students are encouraged to make smart decisions and to educate themselves on safety.

In college, students often use rideshare services for transportation. These services are modeled to provide a safe, easy ride when one is unable to drive themself.

University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was murdered after getting in to a fake Uber after a night out. This attack sparked Uber’s release of a list of things to check for before getting into an Uber or Lyft.

  1. Pay attention to the vehicle: When the car pulls up, compare the make and model of the car to the one listed on the app. Also, confirm that the license plates align.

2. Ask for a name: Ask the driver who they are there to pick up, or what their name is. If they do not give your name or a name matching the one on the app, do not get in the vehicle.

3. Tell a friend: During your trip, click “share status” in the app to share the driver’s name, photo, license plate and location. The recipient will be able to track your trip and estimated time of arrival without needing to download the app themselves.

Uber encourages riders to trust their gut- if something doesn’t feel right, get somewhere safe. It is also recommended that passengers ride in the backseat and in groups.

Women are often the focus of safety concerns, but there have been tragedies surrounding male college students recently as well. Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 4, 2017, due to hazing at Pennsylvania State University’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity. During the hazing, Piazza got intoxicated and fell down the basement stairs of the fraternity house, knocking him unconscious.

On May 5, 2017, 18 members of the fraternity were charged in Piazza’s death. Eight of them were charged with involuntary manslaughter and the rest were charged with various other offenses, including hazing. In addition, Beta Theta Pi fraternity was charged and its Penn State branch was closed. As of September 2017, the fraternity and its 18 members faced a total of more than 850 criminal charges.

On Apr. 2, Luke Visser, Joseph Sala, Joshua Kurczewski and Michael Bonatucci, former members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, were sentenced. Visser was sentenced to two to six months in jail and two years of probation. Kurczewski got three to nine months in jail and one year of probation. Bonatucci received 30 to 60 days in jail and a year of probation. Sala was sentenced to three to six months of house arrest and two years of probation, according to CNN.

They are also all required to pay fines and perform community service.

Boys are encouraged to rush fraternities safely, if they choose to do so at all. If they feel unsafe or uncomfortable at any time, they should remove themselves from the process.