Naomi Aldarondo of Larchmont sees the case of the missing Edgemont student Lauren Spierer as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by her two college-age daughters.
"One of the things I said to them was to always be in a group," she said. "I truly believe there's strength in numbers." Aldarondo stressed the importance of communication to her oldest Jessica while she attended the University of Bridgeport. "I told them, 'Pick up the phone and call me so that I hear your voice and know that you're ok,'" said Aldarando, who would always have the phone numbers of her daughters' friends. "I'm not saying live paranoid, but live cautiously."
Marylin Goldston has a daughter in her senior year at George Washington University and was especially horrified by Spierer's disappearance because the Larchmont Library clerk and Scarsdale resident said she knows her parents. "It's nice to be trusting, but you have to be trusting and aware," she said. "At the end of the day, you cant follow them around."
The story has also brought pause to colleges throughout Westchester. Many schools are studying how best to make sure students are safe both on and off their campuses. All of Westchester's five residential colleges use similar methods to communicate with students, such as standard security lectures at orientations or e-mail and text message alerts, in the event of emergencies. However, there are still some unique measures taken in the county.
Mercy College officials said its safety office met regularly with students to keep them informed. They also use New York Alert to send safety updates to students' e-mail addresses and cell phones. Iona College in New Rochelle works with the city's police department to monitor off-campus residents, said Vice Provost for Student Development Charles J. Carlson. "We have limited resources, but we feel the investment is worth it," Carlson said about the additional cost of protecting off-campus residents. Carlson said Iona College works with New Rochelle police and off-duty officers on weekends to patrol on and off campus.
Purchase College in Harrison took a more on-the-ground approach to protecting students by increasing the number and visibility of emergency phones on campus. Director of Residence Life John Delate said the school has taken extra precautions in recent years that have only been reinforced by Spierer's disappearance. "We don't want people paranoid, but they can't be complacent either," Delate said. "This incident happened in a relatively safe place."
Vice President of Manhattanville College Doug Geiger said his school sends direct messages to students to remind them of the dangers they could encounter. "The thing we convey to our students is that they're not immortal. They think they are, but they're not," Geiger said. "Because of that, we have to instill in them that they need to think about their own safety and think about being aware of their surroundings."
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