Thursday safety alert email causes student concern

Olivia Jacobs

A Campus Safety vehicle patrolling the IWU campus.
Photo: Samira Kassem

On Thursday, March 11, Director of Campus Safety Mark Welker issued an alert following a report of a suspicious individual on campus. An email sent out to the IWU community described the individual as a “white male, around 5’5 tall, thin build, wearing a light grey hoodie with the hood pulled up.”

Two students, a male and a female noticed the individual while they were walking on the corner of Main and Beecher Streets after exiting their vehicle. The students said the individual did not appear to be an IWU student. As the individual approached them, the students increased their walking speed in an attempt to get away from him, but the individual increased his walking speed as well. The students decided to run-up onto the porch of the Acacia fraternity house for help. The individual partially walked up the steps towards them before turning and running east on Beecher Street. 

“I don’t have a long history with the university, but based on my experience here and conversations with others, this particular incident was somewhat rare. IWU students frequently come into contact with people on and around campus, but I would have to describe this incident as unusual,” Welker said.

Campus Safety Officers later searched the area but were unable to find the individual in question. Campus Safety increased their patrols of the area for the rest of the evening and notified the oncoming shift to be on alert for him. 

“Campus Safety will continue to provide high visibility mobile and foot patrols on campus, as well as around the perimeter of campus. We will continue to communicate with the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) in a timely manner and ask for their assistance when necessary,” Welker said. 

This recent incident has caused concern on how Campus Safety plans to further protect students in the future, especially those who may live off-campus or have to cross Main Street to walk to campus. 

“My roommate and I live off-campus in an apartment right on Main Street. We are always crossing Main Street right in that area in order to get to campus for classes and such. It definitely concerns me that something like this happened to two students who were together as I am often alone. I hope that campus safety increases patrol here and helps to protect students walking to campus from elsewhere just as they do for students who live on campus,” senior Rosa Zhaleh said. 

Several similar incidents of non-IWU students inappropriately interacting with students on campus have taken place near Ames Library during this school year, which also raises the question of whether this incident could be related.  

“We can’t say with any certainty at this time that this incident is related to those from last semester. The M.O (Modus Operandi or method) of this incident is very different from those in the fall and some of the physical descriptions don’t add up well. However, we know that people process information differently, and when you add stress to the situation, it would likely lead to varying descriptions,” Welker said. 

Campus Safety urged students in the email to be wary of approaching strangers and also recommended that students who are in need of an escort should make use of Titan Transport which is available Monday through Thursday between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. 

“I would encourage our students living off-campus to remain vigilant, walk in groups when possible and call Campus Safety (309)-556-111 or BPD (911) if they observe any suspicious people or activity,” Welker said.

The Dean of Students Office and Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) are also available to assist students who want to discuss personal safety concerns. Campus Safety will continue to monitor the situation and send out updates as more information about the case surfaces.