Editorial: Women and WUPD

In response to the incident reported in this article, four women of The Johnsonian give their thoughts on the Winthrop police department and their handling of the suspicious man incident

Kali Coleman, Tea Franco, Kristin Streetman, and Caitlan Walzer

On Thursday April 13, an email was sent to the Winthrop student body regarding an incident involving a man “approaching female students and asking them questions that are making them uncomfortable.”

More of the email states, “Since this time, there has been a lot of conversation about this suspicious person on social media. Since this media conversation, Campus Police has been advised a similar incident occurred on April 10 and April 11 around Dinkins. However, we were just made aware of these other 2 incidents last night at 11:30pm, well after the incident occurred and after the social media discussion. I want to reassure the students and the campus community that safety is a priority, but we can only be successful in investigating, solving, and notifying when we receive the information about criminal activity and suspicious activity in a timely manner from victims and witnesses.”

As women of The Johnsonian, we feel very strongly that WUPD took a wrong step by sending the student body email that they did Thursday morning. While an email was necessary, the accusatory nature and attack on social media discussion was unnecessary. What simply could have been a warning about a suspicious man on campus and an explanation of the legality of sending out an alert, turned into an attack on healthy critiques of the police department and a deterrent for women to come forward.

Regardless of the conversation being had on social media, the women’s concerns are still valid. In a time of increasing civil unrest, women deserve the right to feel safe, to feel heard and to feel like their concerns are valid.

It was the social media discussion that prompted actual action by the police department. Had it not been for the online outrage, we feel that we may have never gotten an email and the suspect may have never been apprehended.

Students at Winthrop should not fear the ability to speak out when they feel something is not being done right. Chief Zebedis stating that “if the same effort that was put into discussing this incident on social media would have been put into calling Campus Police as the encounter was taking place, we could have apprehended this person and identified him,” was irresponsible and incorrect.
Several women indicated that they had already attempted to contact WUPD and it was the lack of response from their department that prompted the social media backlash as Winthrop is a primarily female campus.

We commend WUPD for finally taking the necessary steps to handle the situation, however, we feel that action could have been taken sooner. Instead, reactionary emails were sent to the student body seemingly without even a second eye for review as “thank you” was left uncapitalized at the end of the email. Instead of coming off as defensive due to the online dialogue, we felt that Chief Zebedis should have responded with an open ear and understanding nature.

As the women of The Johnsonian, we would also like to extend a ‘thank you’ to the male students that took to social media to ensure all women on this campus feel safe by offering a guiding and protecting hand when walking across campus alone. Your action did not go unnoticed and was greatly appreciated.

We hope that in the future WUPD doesn’t make similar mistakes and women on the campus feel that their concerns are being taken into serious consideration. The women’s social media discussion pushed WUPD to address the suspicious man situation and should not have been belittled.

Special To The Johnsonian

"Special to the Johnsonian" is usually reserved for freelance writers around Winthrop's campus.