Miles for Mollie: How students can stay safe on campus


Mollie Tibbetts poster hung outside of an ATM kiosk on Lincoln Way on Aug. 19.

Willa Colville

In light of recent events, many students on campus are concerned for their safety. While the Mollie Tibbetts case is unique, it is still important to take precaution, especially at night.

Tibbetts, who was abducted on July 18 during a jog, frequently ran at night in Brooklyn, Iowa, where she lived. Here at Iowa State, students typically have hectic schedules with limited free time, so it is not unusual to see them jogging after dark.

Holly Schmitz, president of the running club at Iowa State and senior in mechanical engineering, stressed the importance of running with a friend.

“I always suggest finding a friend to run with or before going on a run letting a friend know when you left,” Schmitz said.

The running club runs at the same time each afternoon and invites anyone to join them. Typically ranging from 40 to 60 members, the club gives students the opportunity to run competitively or just for fun. Monday through Friday members meet at 4:15 p.m. in front of State Gym.

“We meet as a group in front of State Gym and run together,” Schmitz said. “Then we split off into groups but, we encourage everyone to run with a buddy.”

On social media, runners throughout the country have been participating in #MilesforMollie. To honor her memory, people have been running extra miles and posting selfies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after their runs. Many of the posts stress the importance of running safely and being aware of one’s surroundings.

One runner, Melissa Fidone of Council Bluffs, posted the hashtag to Twitter and Facebook. Fidone first saw the hashtag on a Facebook group of female runners in which she is a member.

“I used the hashtag because hundreds of runners across the country and even the world are running their miles in honor of Mollie. We honor her because she was doing what she loved just like we do every day. But Mollie didn’t get to come back,” Fidone said via a direct message on Twitter. “We want to show her family support and we also want to show support to every other female runner out there. We will run smarter but we will not run afraid.”

Fidone said that her group has been following Tibbetts investigation closely and have discussed ways to “run smarter.” She suggests not wearing headphones while running, carry pepper spray and a cellphone and wearing RoadID, a band which has her information on it in the case of an accident. Fidone also encourages runners to share their routes with family or a friend like she does with her husband.

“I run the same route every morning and my husband knows the route. It is a loop close to my home. Even at 5am he could look out the window and track my little light going around the loop,” Fidone said. 

The ISU Police Department has been working hard to make sure students feel safe on campus as well. According to Michael Newton, chief of police, more officers have been added on “foot patrol” and “bike patrol” throughout campus.

“We have restructured some of our shifts and we have actually hired more officers as well. So when I got here a year and a half ago, we had 34 officers now we are up to 38, and we are in the process of hiring more officers as well,” Newton said. “While we might not always have more officers out, when they are more visible and more present that does deter crime.”

In late October, ISUPD will go on a “safety walk” with the Student Government. On the walk, the department looks at lights, shrubbery and other safety concerns throughout campus. Members of Student Government also provide input during the walk.

After last year’s safety walk, brighter lights were added throughout campus. According to Newton, they installed new sidewalk and parking lights between Helser and Friley, south of Black Engineering, east of Heady Hall, entrance to Parking Lot 50B and north of Enrollment Services. They have also discussed switching to L.E.D. light bulbs in parking lots. L.E.D. bulbs are typically brighter, last longer and are more environmentally friendly.

“We have been assessing the campus environment to make sure that everyone is safe,” Newton said. “I always tell people to be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.”

Other universities in Iowa have teamed with Rave Mobile Safety, a Massachusetts-based company, to create safety apps for students and faculty. Chief Newton said the department is evaluating Rave to see if it would work on Iowa State’s campus. As soon as possible, the department wants to get a smartphone app available.

“We want to get something in place this year to give people a little more comfort,” Newton said.

Newton also encourages students to utilize the SafeRide system, which has a smartphone app. SafeRide offers free rides to Iowa State students, faculty and visitors everyday during the hours 9:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. To arrange for a ride with SafeRide, use the smartphone app or call 515-294-4444.

CyRide also offers a Moonlight Express service on Friday and Saturday from 10:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. The shuttle bus route runs through campustown, downtown, west Ames and southeast Ames. It also offers door-to-door shuttling in the areas of the city not covered by the main routes. To arrange for a ride on Moonlight Express, call 292-1100 on the night you need a ride.