Walking escorts increase after student’s death

The number of students using the program more than doubled in the days after Jenna Burleigh was killed in an off-campus apartment.

Campus Safety Services security guard Sharniece Falson escorts sophomore social work major Julia Cutler home on Cecil B. Moore Avenue on Sept. 12. | JOCELYN BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The amount of walking escort requests doubled in the days following the death of Jenna Burleigh, a junior film and media arts major, Campus Safety Services reported.

Burleigh was found dead in Wayne County, Pennsylvania on Sept. 2. In the days prior, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1, there were 31 escort requests, according to Campus Safety Services. From Sept. 2 to Sept. 8, there were 65 requests.

Joshua Hupperterz, a former advertising student, was charged on Sept. 3 with Burleigh’s murder. She died of blunt force trauma and strangulation.

The Walking Escort Program, which was instituted five years ago, is a  service available from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. After a student requests an escort by calling the hotline, a Campus Safety Services officer walks them to their residence hall or off-campus apartment within TUPD’s enforcement boundary. The service is also available at the Health Sciences Campus.

Following Burleigh’s death, Campus Safety Services encourages the use of the Walking Escort Program for students traveling off campus.

Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said the program’s main priority is student safety.

“It’s very easy to do,” Leone said. “All you need to do is call.”

While Campus Safety Services saw the number of walking escort requests increase following Burleigh’s death, some students said they feel the program is not accessible enough. Although they are aware of the service, some students are unsure how it works.

Sophomore sport and recreation management major Meghan Barish commutes to Main Campus and is on campus late in the evening for meetings. She said she has never used the service, but has considered it after Burleigh was killed.

“I definitely think I’d use it now,” she said. “I could probably avoid a lot of awful situations.”

The majority of students who use the program are female, Leone said. Campus Safety Services is always looking for new ways to promote the service as inclusive to all genders, like having officers walk a few steps in front or behind of a male student so they are more comfortable. This is promoted during new student orientations and on TUPD’s flyers.

Last year, The Temple News reported that males use the Walking Escort Program “drastically” less than women.

Campus Safety Services advertises the program in buildings — like the library, the TECH Center and Tyler School of Art — where they know students may stay late at night.

But some students are comfortable traveling off campus, especially when they are in groups or in well-lit areas.

Junior political science major Lauren Distefano said she and her friends are confident walking to their off-campus apartment, even at night.

“I live on 16th [Street], which is only about a block from campus,” she said. “I feel comfortable walking alone, but I probably should take more precautions considering what happened.”

Junior film and media arts major Erin Versaggi said she has a “false sense of security” while traveling off campus.

“I’ve never really felt unsafe at Temple, but I’m more hesitant now to go places alone,” she added.

Junior risk management and insurance major Alexis Bogiatzis said she wishes the service was accessible via the TU Mobile app.

“There needs to be an easier way to do it,” Bogiatzis said. “I don’t even know the number for it, and if I’m in a situation where I can’t look it up, I want it to be readily available.

Another hesitation some students have of using the program is the risk factor of being around an officer while being intoxicated.

“Theoretically, why would I willingly go to the police if I was underage and drinking?” said Versaggi.

Leone said the campus security bike officers, who escort students home, are not sworn officers and are only concerned with a student’s safety.

“The majority of the time, we just want to transport you home,” Leone said. “We don’t want to give citations, but if medical attention is necessary, we will take action.”

“The last thing we want is apprehension for something like this,” he added.

To request an escort, call: 8-WALK (8-9255) from a campus phone, or call 215-777-9255 from your cell phone.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.