UTPD remembers Haruka Weiser two years later with a gold flame

Anna Lassmann

Two years after the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser, the UT Police Department and the Be Safe program graphics are changing their logos to a gold flame to honor Weiser during the month of April.

“As is their tradition, Haruka’s family gave her a new name in death, Bright Faith,” said Cindy Posey, UT spokeswoman, in an email. “During the month of April, we turn (the Be Safe) flame gold to represent ‘Bright Faith.’ We think it’s a beautiful tribute.”

After Weiser was killed, the Be Safe program was expanded to include the “Walk with Me” campaign. The idea of the campaign is if someone sees another person walking alone, they offer to be there and walk with them.

Sylvia Feghali, urban studies junior and Weiser’s former roommate, said Weiser’s life should be remembered by changing campus culture and re-introducing the idea of supporting one another. Feghali said students need to provide input for the Be Safe campaign to be effective.

“I don’t think I will ever feel the same type of comfort I felt on campus before Haruka was killed, but I can appreciate the changes that have been made,” Feghali said. “The Be Safe campaign is an important step, but for it to continue to be an effective campaign, it needs to adapt and students need to provide input.”

There have also been increased patrols by UTPD and the Texas Department of Public Safety, increased lighting and reduced vegetation on campus, new security systems in buildings and increased monitoring of UT and UTPD social media channels, according to UT’s Be Safe website.

“Since Haruka’s tragic murder on campus, UTPD has continued to increase the size of its force to enhance police response and visibility,” UTPD Chief David Carter said in an email. “We are now authorized 104 police officer positions.”

UTPD has also increased their community engagement through district liaisons tasked with regularly meeting with building managers and student groups, Carter said.

“We believe an engaged community is a safe community,” Carter said. “We remain committed and open to students’ ideas on their possible areas of concern as well as ongoing dialogue.”

The College of Fine Arts, in which Weiser was a student, implemented nightly security patrols of their buildings, distributed COFA lanyards to students that must be worn in their buildings after 10 p.m. and worked to publicize SURE Walk and SURE Ride in the months following Weiser’s death.

COFA also created the Haruka Weiser Commission to ensure the spirit of Weiser lives on by making a new and innovative piece of dance choreography every year, said Brant Pope, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, in a statement.

“Two years have passed since the young life of Haruka Weiser was ended in the most brutal way, and both COFA and the entire UT community continues to grapple with the emotional impact of her death,” Pope said. “Every year, an internationally significant dance artist will be commissioned to make a new and innovative piece of dance choreography, dedicated to Haruka.”

Weiser was reported missing on April 4, 2016. Her body was found on campus April 5, 2016 in Waller Creek behind the Alumni Center.

Meechaiel Criner was indicted on capital murder charges for Weiser’s death in June 2016. Criner’s trial is set to begin on July 9.