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UNC community reflects on campus safety on the 10-year anniversary of Eve Carson's death

old well file

Photo by Alex Kormann

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the app as "ListSave." It is LiveSafe. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. 

Today marks a decade since former UNC student Eve Carson was killed just a mile off of UNC's campus. Ten years later, University officials and campus organizations are still working to make the Carolina community safer.

UNC’s campus safety and police forces have made strides since Carson’s death, said Randy Young, media relations manager for UNC Campus Safety. Since the advent of social media and the technological revolution, the public safety office has utilized this platform to launch various technology-based alert and safety programs.

The Alert Carolina system was the most influential change and is most commonly used today, Young said. Other systems — like the Smart911 server that sends valuable information to responders and LiveSafe which connects the UNC community to campus police — have increased their campus reach as well.

“One of the biggest challenges is staying ahead of technology and making sure that we communicate and interact with the campus community in ways that the campus community choose to receive their information and then impart it,” Young said. 

One of Campus Safety’s primary focuses is educating the community on the best practices, Young said. They seek to educate the community about a standardized approach to reacting to active shooters and have plans to coordinate an active shooter drill early this summer. They also train students to identify and prevent interpersonal violence.

In addition, campus police are required to wear body cameras — a practice that has been shown to improve interactions between police officers and civilians. 

Yet students still encounter moments that lead them to question their safety.

Junior Jenny Shelton generally feels safe on campus and has rarely considered taking extra precautions to ensure her safety. One recent night, however, Shelton was walking from a bus stop back to her apartment on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a mere 10-minute walk she completes often. She noticed a white van parked on the side of the street in her path.

The van began to back up close to her. The driver yelled out the window, but he didn't speak English well, Shelton said, and she assumed he was going to ask for directions.

“He looks at me and says, ‘Are you a blonde or a dirty blonde?'” Shelton said. “And I just stared at him because I didn’t understand what was happening. The guy next to him in the passenger seat said, ‘He’s asking about your hair.’” 

She said she was blonde. The two people in the car looked at Shelton, said “Oh, okay. I like that,” and drove away. The interaction was brief but uncomfortable, Shelton said.

“I guess it sounds like a simple story — it just sounds like they were asking me about my hair,” Shelton said. “But it’s a lot more than that. It’s how they said it, the look on their faces, everything.”

Transfer student Emma Hayes joined the UNC community after an event at another university changed her idea of safety in college.

“It was a Tinder date gone poorly,” Hayes said. “He suggested we go on a walk to a park that was right off campus. On the way there, he attacked me and held me by the throat and forced a lot of alcohol into me until I couldn’t walk and assaulted me and left me there.” 

This assault occurred during the spring semester of Hayes’ first year at the University of Washington in Seattle. She said she felt safe on the campus itself, but the city beyond the University felt less safe than Chapel Hill. After she returned the next year, Hayes struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and performed poorly in her classes. She dropped out, moved back to her hometown of Chapel Hill and later enrolled at UNC.

Hayes never attends fraternities or other big parties and rarely spends time on campus at night. When she does, she drives. When she walks alone at night, Hayes makes sure to have her dog with her or her phone in her hand the whole time, with location services turned on for her boyfriend to access.

Her only striking memory of feeling unsafe in Chapel Hill was when a man stuck his head into her open bedroom window one night and flicked on a lighter, waking her up. After that incident, she never leaves the window open. For the most part, though, Hayes said she has felt safe on campus. 

Though the on-campus environment feels equally safe at both schools, The University of Washington seemed to have more preventative services for students, Hayes said, especially for female students and sexual assault. 

“It’s a really progressive school in a really progressive town, so they’re a little bit more open about everything, especially sexual assault,” Hayes said, adding that the University of Washington handled her assault well. 

Hayes commended the University of Washington’s Husky NightWalk program, similar to UNC's SafeWalk.

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Senior Victoria Collins is the assistant director of public relations and outreach for SafeWalk, an organization founded the same year as Carson’s death. Outside every campus library each night, a team is available to walk students to and from various places on and off campus. Though the libraries are their primary locations, many students use the service to walk to off-campus housing or across campus late at night.

Recently, Collins has been pushing to increase publicity for SafeWalk on campus. She wants to emphasize that the walkers are students themselves who can be called both on and off campus — from parties, events and other locations. The walks are always judgement free, Collins said, emphasizing safety as their top priority.

The experience has been rewarding, and she wants to shed light on the program through which students help other students provide a safer UNC community.