On Thursday, Nov. 14, California Lutheran University Campus Safety Director David Hilke sent a safety reminder via email in the aftermath of an incident in which a student reported being followed by a white van. While the safety reminder said this was the only incident reported, at least one other student said they had a similar experience on campus earlier this year.
Junior Morgan Foster said she had a scare in early October while going to visit friends at Trinity Hall.
“I come over to hang out quite often,” Foster said. “I usually go at night because that’s what works best with all of our schedules but it wasn’t even that late. It was right before 8 p.m., it wasn’t even completely dark yet.”
Foster said she parked in the residential parking lot and walked to the Trinity Hall entrance. However, because she does not live in the dorms, Foster had to wait for her friend to come down and open the door for her. This time, Foster said her friend did not answer right away.
“I was waiting for my friend to come down and I saw this car by the entrance,” Foster said. “It wasn’t a white van like others reported, but like a Honda Civic. At first I didn’t think anything of it because sometimes people are still moving in and I thought maybe they were parents helping their student move in, because it was a woman and a man in the car.”
Foster said despite her best efforts to ignore the car, she remained alert when the man exited the car.
“The guy comes out of the backseat and I was just trying to ignore him, but he kept saying ‘excuse me, excuse me’ and I was pretending like I couldn’t hear him, but then he started walking up to me,” Foster said. “I asked him if I could help him and he asked me what my name was. I told him, and he reached out to shake my hand but when I tried to let go he pulled me in and asked if we could hold hands and tried to take me back to the car with him.”
Foster described the man as around 35 to 40 years old, Caucasian, with brown hair and a buzz cut. He also had some facial hair and a “very round face.”
“I pulled my hand out to get out of his grip and told him no, and the driver started calling out for him so he went back to the car,” Foster said. “I couldn’t go back to my car because I would have to pass their car and couldn’t get into the dorm, so I texted my friend and told her she needed to come down right now.”
After Foster’s friend let her in, Foster said she decided to report the incident to Campus Safety, although she said she was not sure if her report would be worthwhile.
“I didn’t really feel that confident that Campus Safety would get them, because there are a lot of things that happen on campus that don’t get taken care of, but that’s the truth in my opinion,” Foster said.
When she went to Campus Safety, Foster said she found there was not much they could do because the cameras located at Trinity only cover the parking lots and had no view of the entrance where the car was.
Foster is not the only student with concerns about safety. Sophomore Lauren Potes said she thinks Campus Safety should be more present on campus.
“My friend had experienced a scary incident on campus regarding a white van and at first I didn’t believe her, but when I saw the email I knew she was serious,” Potes said.
In response to the recent incident, Hilke explained in an email interview how campus is planning to improve safety and how students can protect themselves in light of the incident that prompted the campus reminder.
“I reported the [white van] incident to the Thousand Oaks Police Department and they have agreed to provide a patrol presence on campus,” Hilke said.
Hilke also said the police presence on campus “may include unmarked vehicles.”
Hilke recommended above all that students stay aware of their surroundings and watch out for other Cal Lutheran students.
“Look out for one another; If you see something that looks suspicious or you see that another student is uncomfortable or in a troubling situation, please call 9-1-1 and/or Campus Safety immediately,” Hilke said.
Foster said she hopes moving forward there is a way for students who do not live in a specific dorm to gain access by being put on a residents “guest list” to eliminate the need for someone to come down and open the door .
“I feel like it would be safer and a little easier than depending on someone to open the door for you,” Foster said.