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Should college students fear for their safety on campus?

Joel Molina
Blue towers around campus mark the emergency call boxes which is a direct line to the campus police, if needed.

The murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at Augusta University sparked a political and national debate over immigration but also posed the question on whether college campuses are safe? 

According to the New York Times, Riley went on a run to the nearby University of Georgia (UGA) campus, where she had previously been a student. After she did not return from her run, a friend contacted the UGA campus police and officers found Riley’s body in a wooded area near a running trail.  

The following day, officers charged Jose Antonio Ibarra who lived one mile away from the trail where the body was found. During his arrest it was revealed the Ibarra was an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela who crossed the border near El Paso, TX.  

Ibarra’s charges include murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, hindering a 911 call and concealing the death of another. 

A statement by U.S Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), revealed that Ibarra was arrested by Border Patrol for unlawfully entering the United States.  Sept. 8, 2022. He was also arrested by the New York Police Department for acting in a manner to injure a child and a motor vehicle license violation on Aug. 31, 2023. The New York Times also reported that Ibarra was arrested on a third occasion in Georgia for shoplifting. On all occasions Ibarra was released as there was no warrant for his arrest.  

This news sparked controversy in the local community but also within political leaders. In an interview with the New York Post, a friend of Riley’s, Callie Irvin expressed her anger towards Riley’s death.  

“People are really starting to question why this was allowed to happen, none of us is looking to make this into a political thing. That’s not who Laken was,” Irvin said. “But the facts are the facts. He shouldn’t have been allowed to do this; he shouldn’t have even been here.” 

Riley’s death was a point of contention during President Biden’s State of the Union address. According to Time Magazine, U.S Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene interrupted Biden’s speech to push him to say Riley’s name.  Biden responded by talking about Riley saying she was killed by an illegal and held up a pin with her face that Greene had given him before his speech. He sent his condolences to the family and discussed his immigration policies.  

Aside from political debate, it also sparked a conversation on whether college campuses are safe for students.  

UTEP students shared how they felt about their safety on campus with many expressing that they had a sense of security within the campus.  

“I feel pretty safe here, I feel like there is not much going on especially being in a smaller campus. I don’t think there are life threatening issues here on campus,” said UTEP student Fernanda Avila.  

UTEP student Leslie Martinez previously lived in the campus dorms and shared how she felt about her safety living on campus. 

“I spent a lot of time on campus, including in the night so my safety is something that I definitely thought about,” Martinez said. “I felt safe while being on campus and walking to my dorm, I was more scared when I had to go off campus.” 

UTEP offers several safety precautions for students, there is a safety escort service that allows students to be escorted by a UTEP police officer from different buildings and housing on campus and their vehicles if they are in a student parking lot. To request the service, students can call 915-747- 5611. 

While many students feel safe on campus, some want to find comfort in seeing a higher police presence. 

“I sometimes see them (UTEP police) around a lot and other days I don’t,” UTEP student Paulina Chavez said. “I feel when the police are around it feels more protected, it’s comforting to know that you can find someone that is supposed to help you easily.” 

UTEP police also implemented emergency phones where students can use them for an emergency and can be found in various parts of campus.  These phones can call the police communications department which has staff 24/7, including holidays.  

While UTEP students feel safe on campus it is still important to prioritize safety. Some tips from U.S News to stay safe are to avoid walking alone at night and staying in well-lit areas, pay attention to surroundings, have a plan when going out which includes sharing the plan and location with family or friends, and be aware of the university’s safety services.  

Ximena Cordero is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Ximena Cordero
Ximena Cordero, Staff Reporter
Ximena Cordero is a freshman at The University of Texas at El Paso. She is a staff reporter at The Prospector. She is majoring in communications and deciding between a minor in creative writing or English literature. After graduating, she would like to pursue a master's degree, work as a journalist or communication specialist, and maybe even write her own books. She wants a career that will allow her to explore the world and see new perspectives and cultures.
Joel Molina
Joel Molina, Photo Editor
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the photo editor who began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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