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Clemson Student’s Death Causes Reexamination of Campus Safety

South Carolina authorities last week arrested Jerry B. Inman, 35, on charges of murder, kidnapping and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the death of Clemson University student Tiffany Marie Souers.

Although the arrest has relieved the university community, Gail DiSabatino, Clemson’s vice president of student affairs, says the case has led some people to rethink the university’s safety measures.

“We are looking at how to increase awareness and education here,” she says.

The Clemson case and others have put the spotlight on campus and student safety measures. Most universities already have safety escort services in place, and schools must publish an annual report on security policies as part of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

But others are taking precaution a step further. 

For example, students applying to the University of North Carolina are asked to disclose their criminal records. UNC officials also now look for warning signs to screen out potentially dangerous students, and they share information about problem students between the 16 campuses. The changes were put into effect after two students were raped and killed in their dorm room by fellow students two years ago.

A bill before the North Carolina Legislature would require fingerprinting and criminal background checks of all incoming students at all the campuses.

Lawmakers in Tennessee are also trying to deal with campus security by proposing a bill that requires colleges to provide instruction on preventing sexual assault. The bill began winding its way through the legislative process after an 18-year-old female student at the University of Tennessee alleged she was sexually assaulted by a group of male students in a residential dorm.

Souers, a 20-year-old civil engineering student from Ladue, Mo., was found dead in her off-campus apartment by her former roommate and her boyfriend, authorities say.

Clemson University Police Department Capt. James Cowan says the department had to increase their visibility to provide comfort to the student community.

“We are making an effort to work with the student government and others to increase awareness,” Cowan says. As for on-campus crimes, Cowan says he is “a fan of fingerprinting” all students even though it has not yet been officially imposed.

By Shilpa Banerji



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