CALL 713.222.TIPS (8477)

Sunday Mornings with Rania: A Look at University of Texas Student Haruka Weiser and Campus Safety

“Although Haruka loved to perform on stage she never sought the spotlight in her daily life. Perhaps the last thing she would want is to be the poster child for any cause,” the family wrote. “And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death.” (Source: Daily Texan)

You don’t have to look at her picture to realize how beautiful Haruka Weiser was. The 18-year-old University of Texas at Austin freshman disappeared Sunday evening near the stadium and was found dead several days later. As of Friday, the suspect (whose name does not bear mentioning) was apprehended by law enforcement. He is a 17-year-old male, a homeless youth whose actions have shattered the lives of the Weiser family, shaken the UT campus to its core and created a reminder for all parents, everywhere, to make a concerted effort to talk to their children about safety while on campus.

Many of us are thinking, we do talk about safety while on campus. We discuss drinking, sexuality and the lasting effects of our choices as we look beyond college and towards our professional careers. How many of us honestly talk to our kids about the risks of strangers or others on campus who have a plan to rape, assault and kill? It’s a horrible thought and an even worse conversation. The reality is that a 10-minute talk (done as much as you and your kid can have it), can save their life if the unthinkable were to happen.

Before you start, parents, did you know that federal law requires all postsecondary institutions that receive federal financial aid to report and monitor criminal offenses on their campuses? This data is posted annually by the Department of Education to help colleges and their communities understand the safety challenges that they face. Take a moment to read this information even if you know your school is academically strong and in a great location.

Beyond that, here’s what we want you to talk to your children about.

When walking through campus:

  • If you can call an escort, do it. Every time. For example, UT offers SURE Walk (link is external), a student-run volunteer group that provides walks to and from campus for UT students, faculty and staff. Every university offers services such as this one. Make sure you’re aware of it and use it.
  • Never walk alone on a college campus in the evening. Remember, even if the campus is in the heart of a vibrant city where crime is not an issue (reports show the last killing at UT was in the ’60s), you never know who will make their way on campus and if their path will cross your college student.
  • If forced to walk alone, walk in well-lit areas where other students or vehicles will pass. Call friends before you leave, let them know you are on your way and the path you plan to take.
  • Have a tool and plan of action if you are ever approached or assaulted. Ask the questions: What will I do if I’m attacked? What do I have on me that could be used as a weapon? Where is the nearest police stop or friend? Where could I run? Is that thought scary or morbid? No, it’s smart. If this type of thinking is engrained then your child is 10 steps ahead if attacked. They are well past the shock. They are not struggling for a plan. They are ready to fight and know what they will do.
  • When walking through campus, preferably at any time but especially during the evening, night and early morning, do not walk distracted. This means – phone in hand and ready to push “send” in case of an emergency but no music in your ears. Know where you are going, who is behind you and who is in front of you.
  • Critically important – make sure both you and your student are familiar with the campus, where classes are, dorms / apartments are and what the campus offers students in terms of added safety.

While in their apartments or dorms:

  • Keep doors and windows locked at all times, even when down the hall visiting friends or taking a shower.
  • Don’t let anyone (especially strangers) into your residence hall.
  • Monitor your room key and don’t let others borrow them. If you lose your keys, report it and get locks changed immediately.


  • Always have a working cell phone.
  • Save emergency numbers, including school law enforcement, in your cell phone. Also important is to make sure all your credit card company phone numbers are also loaded in the case that a wallet gets stolen.
  • Trust. Your. Instincts and do not care about being rude. If you think you are being followed, don’t ignore it. Get yourself to a safe environment. Walk up to a group of people you don’t know and make conversation or share your concerns. Make a scene if you have to. Predators look for easy targets, daydreamers or distracted students.
  • Notify school-based law enforcement when you see suspicious characters on your campus.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Weiser family. I’m sure that they would agree that parents everywhere should take any opportunity to proactively keep their college kids safe. You’ll never, ever regret it.

The unimaginable events at a beloved Texas institution this past week have also highlighted the incredible job of the UT school administration and law enforcement. Together, they worked strategically, quickly and effectively – leaving no stone unturned. As a direct result, the suspect in this case was immediately apprehended. Through this entire ordeal, the safety of all students became an equally important priority. What an outstanding job, in the midst of a terrible situation, that must be recognized and applauded.

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 10 Apr 2016

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston