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Port Chester Father Reflects on Spierer Case

Joe Durney sat at Starbucks in Rye Brook having coffee with his daughter Caitlin, who recently returned from Monroe Community College in Rochester while the parents of Lauren Spierer are still searching for their daughter in Indiana."It's a nightmare for any parent," said Durney.

Spierer, a 2009 graduate of nearby Edgemont High School, was last seen in the early morning hours of Friday, June 3 near Indiana University, where she is a sophomore.

Spierer's story has colleges throughout Westchester reflecting on 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 their safety office met regularly with students to keep them informed. They additionally use New York Alert to send safety updates to students' e-mail addresses and cell phones.

Iona College in New Rochelle works closely with the city’s police department to monitor their 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 to ensure that students are respecting their neighbors and each other.

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."

Spierer's disappearance has parents reflecting on the safety of their children who are away at college or will soon be.Durney said he's talked with his daughter about being safe and always having someone with her if she's out at night, but he tries not to be too overbearing. "You try give your children roots and wings," said Durney. "But at some point they have to take control of their own destiny."

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