LSA junior Joey DeBartolo was walking down Hill Street at about 2 p.m. on a Sunday last month when a white van pulled into a driveway, cutting her off. She tried walking around the car when a man got out and demanded her purse. He forcibly took her bag and sped away.
DeBartolo said she tried to run after him, but “you can’t catch a car going 40 miles per hour.”
When she tried to approach people on the street to ask if they’d seen the van, they shook her off and kept walking.
“I didn’t necessarily lose anything valuable,” she said. “But I feel like I lost something invaluable in the sense that I don’t feel safe on campus.”
DeBartolo now carries a small blue metal whistle emblazoned with the words “M All Together.” The whistle is part of a campaign by the University chapter of Hillel, the campus Greek system and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center to promote safety and awareness of crime.
“We don’t believe that this is the end all, be all to making campus a safer place, but rather it is a part of a broader campaign to create a better and safer environment on campus,” said Perry Teicher, chair of Hillel’s governing board.
Teicher, an LSA junior who organized the event in conjunction with the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association, said the whistles are a “symbolic gesture” intended to indirectly prevent street crime by promoting awareness.
The idea behind the whistles is that if people carry them, they’re more likely to come to help someone who’s distressed in their time of need.
LSA senior Melissa Weston, education co-coordinator for SAPAC, said the campaign is a departure from the traditional idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to drive a predator away with a loud noise, placing the emphasis instead on the community to take action.
“Traditionally it’s just women’s responsibility, and what this is doing it turning it around and saying this is all together our responsibility,” Weston said. “(The campaign will) kind of reclaim that metaphor.”
The recent rash of armed robberies on campus has caused some students to feel uneasy walking around on campus.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said the increased danger may be perceived instead of real.
“It’s hard for people your age to think of all the crimes of the ’60s and all the crimes of the ’80s, but those had their peaks too,” Brown said. “If you look on a chart, it doesn’t just keep on going up over the decades.”
DeBartolo said she doesn’t think she would have blown her whistle had she had it when she was accosted last month, butthat it helps people understand they need to self-police.
“I think it’s just a good idea in the sense that it shows, ‘Hey, we are we all supposed to be here together,’ ” she said. “Maybe if someone comes up to you says, ‘Hey did you see a white van go by,’ maybe you should stop.”
Where to get whistles
– Whistles are available at the offices of the University’s chapter of Hillel and at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.
– Organizers will distribute a batch of whistles to sororities, most likely sometime later this week.