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Students express mixed feelings in light of recent on-campus incidents

ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

From an armed robbery at IQ Apartments to the arrest of a Moffitt Cancer Center researcher for video voyeurism, several incidents have hit close to home for students over the past week.

With these crimes happening in the direct vicinity of USF, stringing across a few days, students are beginning to take notice, becoming more observant as they walk around the area.

“I’m not going to live my life in fear of these things,” Aaron Richmond, a sophomore majoring in environmental science and policy, said. “It just makes you more vigilant — you think twice.”

Monday evening, four students were held at gunpoint at IQ Apartments by two men. The suspects got away with an unspecified amount of cash and are still at large.

Tuesday, freshman Fatou Gueye reported that she was robbed of her backpack and jewelry by two men near the Interdisciplinary Science Building. However, during police interviews on Wednesday she confessed she “falsely reported the crime and no robbery occurred.” Gueye was arrested and has posted $500 bond.

“Our school was built in a very low-income part of Hillsborough County,” Alex Naum, a sophomore majoring in public health, said. “These robberies and incidents aren’t new to this area.”

Luis A. Froes Jr. was arrested Tuesday for using the camera on his phone to record another person showering at the Campus Recreation Center by holding it under the stall wall. Froes posted $2,000 bail Wednesday.

But not all of these concerns stem from an incident that occurred on or near the USF campus.

Herb Maschner, former director of the USF Center for Virtualization and Spatial Technologies, was removed from his position Wednesday and was reassigned after the Tampa Bay Times reported sexual harassment accusations against him when he was working at Idaho State University in October 2013. 

He’s accused of showing a female coworker unwanted attention, forcibly kissing and groping her.

Some students have taken action to personally monitor their security.

“I’m definitely more aware of my surroundings,” Samantha Priest, a sophomore majoring in international business, said. “I always ride my bike and keep pepper spray on my keychain.”

The school offers transportation services such as Safe and Free Escort (SAFE) team, which operates Monday through Sunday from 6:30 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., to help students get to their desired on-campus location. 

“I never took (SAFE) team before,” Dana Samelson, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, said. “But I started to once I was approached by an older man trying to get me into his car — it’s kind of getting out of hand.” 

However, not all students are concerned by these events. 

“I don’t feel any more unsafe than I did prior to hearing this,” Sabrina Valladares, a sophomore majoring in political science, said. “Similar events happen across universities nationwide — it’s good to be cautious.”

Regardless of the reasoning behind these events, students recommend being cautious and aware of surrounding areas while walking.

“The holidays are coming up and people with low incomes are panicking,” Kendal Westphal, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, said. “The important thing to remember is to be aware of your surroundings and make good judgment calls.”