​WAVES email hopes to raise student awareness about stalking

Due to increased stalking reports on campus, Mason’s Office of Housing and Residence Life sent out an email urging students to keep the residence halls safe.

The email was sent out by Housing on Nov. 10 at the request of Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education Services. In the email, students were asked to prevent non-residents from entering the building. Students were encouraged to ask people coming into the residence hall behind them whether they live in the building or to see if they have a Mason ID.

WAVES Director Mary Ann Sprouse says this is the first year Mason has kept a record of reported stalking incidents.

“We have been seeing an uptick in students coming to our office this fall about stalking,” Sprouse said. “18 to 24 year olds in general are at higher risk and more often stalked than any other age group. 18 to 24 year olds are a large chunk of our constituents on campus, so yeah, it’s a big [issue].”

For senior Maria Barrios, it was not until she experienced a stalking incident of her own that she realized how big a problem stalking could be.

“When I was a sophomore I experienced being followed by a guy that I barely knew multiple times a month for a few months until he graduated. I didn’t feel threatened or anything, just freaked out by one-too-many ‘coincidences,’” Barrios said. “It changed my behavior slightly.”

Despite recent increases in reported stalking incidents, sophomore Nicki Rampino says that she is not too worried about stalking, but still is cautious when out at night.

“It may not be a conscious worry of mine, but at the same time it’s good to be wary of suspicious activity, especially after the recent incidents of stalking,” Rampino said.

Rampino and Barrios agree that it would be awkward to ask someone to show their Mason ID or ask if they lived in the building, but she would ask anyway.

“If it’s someone’s parent or grandparent, I never let them in. But if someone looks young and has a backpack or something school-y, I don’t think long and hard before letting them in,” Barrios said. “I would ask an older-looking person if they know where they’re going or need to be let in, but I’d feel weird asking a student.”

Sophomore Carlie Hocter believes it would be too uncomfortable to ask someone to show their ID or ask if they lived in the building.

“If a student looks like they don’t belong there I might not let them in, but I wouldn’t necessarily ask them to show me their IDs because it would be really awkward,” Hocter said.

Sprouse says she understands that it might be uncomfortable to ask people for their IDs or if they live in the building, but she stresses that asking will keep everyone much safer.

“I’m hoping that the awareness that stalking is a crime and it’s very serious and people who are being stalked are legitimately in fear for their safety [will encourage students to not feel so uncomfortable],” Sprouse said. “When you let someone in the building who doesn’t belong there you really could be putting somebody’s life at stake. So that’s what we really want students to know.”

Photo Credit: Claire Cecil