The University has suffered a collective loss this past weekend. With the murder of former student and staff member Ronald Stem, the imaginary, protective bubble that has covered USF for so long has burst. Students who live on campus may not feel safe, while faculty and staff may be mourning a friend who they will miss dearly.
It may feel as if the wind has been taken out of USF’s sails, as the University has been a relative safe haven for many years.
“Statistically and historically, this has been a very safe campus,” said University Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Klingebiel to Bay News 9.
There has not been a murder on the Tampa campus since 1994, when a man shot his ex-girlfriend outside a residence hall following a concert at the Special Events Center.
When compared with the surrounding areas, it seems as if the University has had a protective bubble around it. For example, the area near the intersection of 22nd Street and Fletcher Avenue has had four murders from 1994 to 2004, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office County Web site’s crime statistics. This is not a relatively high number, yet compared with the statistics at nearby USF, it is understandable why the student and faculty communities have felt safe for so long.
Stem’s death is an unfortunate reminder that though crimes of this magnitude may be rare on the USF campus, it is possible for them to happen. What has happened cannot be changed, of course, but the USF community can choose how it responds.
In terms of outreach and counseling, the University has responded quickly. On-campus counseling services have been offered by the Counseling Center for Human Development and the Advocacy Program. These services are essential so healing can begin and individuals can grieve and feel safe and secure on campus.
As UP reminded on-campus residents, measures of personal safety must be taken. Locking doors, not letting unescorted people into residence halls and traveling around campus in groups are all important. Granted, these measures are not foolproof, but they can deter crimes from being committed.
Some may not feel the need to take these measures, but they must realize the implications of what occurred late Thursday night. USF is not covered by a bubble – it is a metropolitan university where bad things can, will and have happened.