Be Safe campaign responds to campus stabbing

Wesley Story

The Be Safe campaign’s original goal to change the culture of campus safety remains the same following the May 1 stabbing.

Following the recent on-campus stabbing that resulted in the death of undergraduate studies freshman Harrison Brown, the UT Police Department plans to move forward with their standard messaging to the University while also adapting to the sensitivity of the situation, UTPD spokesperson Cindy Posey said.

“Our plans for the summer are to keep in mind everything that’s happened in the last 14 months with the Haruka Weiser murder and the stabbing on May 1,” Posey said. “In the meantime, while we’re posting and sending out messaging, we’re also planning for the fall.”

Posey said the campaign will focus on heavier content, specifically more video, to help communicate their three main safety points — “Walk With Me,” “Be Aware of Your Surroundings” and “Call 911.”

“Our goal is to help the community, students, faculty and staff think more about their safety and what behavior and what actions they can do to improve their own personal safety,” Posey said.

The campaign started in 2015, but after dance freshman Haruka Weiser’s death in April of last year, UTPD amped up Be Safe’s efforts with help from Weiser’s family through a more aggressive campaign agenda.

Police said Kendrex White, the student facing murder charges in the on-campus stabbing, had been suffering from mental health issues and had recently been involuntarily committed to a hospital in Bell County prior to the attack, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The campaign plans to collaborate with groups across campus such as Voices Against Violence, BeVocal, the Counseling and Mental Health Center and UT Athletics. Be Safe wants to use these partnerships to reach more students and help diversify their messaging to address issues such as mental health and sexual assault.

Some students have expressed concerns that incidents such as the stabbing, which took place in broad daylight near the busiest part of campus, may not have been preventable through precautionary measures that the Be Safe campaign emphasizes.

“It really makes you think,” nutrition junior Reena Patel said. “The campaign’s messaging emphasizes precaution, but how do you prevent a random act like that? Every time you walk outside, you’re taking a risk by entrusting others with your safety.”

White told Houston news station KPRC2 that no one noticed him with his knife before the attack.

“I pulled out my knife,” White said. “My heart started beating really fast and no one moved and then I struck a table and no one acknowledged that I did that. They kept going on with their conversations.”

Posey said the campaign wants to address the reasons witnesses didn’t immediately call 911 upon seeing the weapon.

“Our goal is not to make anyone feel guilty,” Posey said. “If you have any inkling at all that you are not safe, go ahead and make the call and let the cops figure it out. UTPD would rather come out to investigate and figure out it’s nothing than for you to not call at all.”

Students can contribute to the campaign by submitting ideas and designs through the Be Safe website. Focus groups will be conducted this summer to come up with more ideas for the campaign, and Posey said students can reach out to her if they want to get more involved.

“Safety involves everyone, and it also involves an attitude of helping each other,” Posey said.