IU students present "Lauren Project" to Spierers
The case of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer has inspired new campaigns for campus safety.
Lauren disappeared in Bloomington nearly a year-and-a-half ago.
Wednesday, her parents were back on campus, for the "Lauren Project," with a goal of keeping co-eds safe.
Hoosier freshmen weren't even on campus when Spierer disappeared June 3, 2011. They didn't experience the searches, the posters and the daily pleas from her parents for answers.
But Lauren's story is still their story.
"Coming in, everyone knows about Lauren," IU freshman Zack Bassi told the Spierers.
"What happened to Lauren could happen to any of us," another student said.
"It really affects everybody still. It affects the way we go out, it affects the mindset that we have here," explained IU freshman Julianne Howell.
That is at the heart of the "Lauren Project," a classroom assignment through the Kelley School of Business, to turn Lauren Spierer's tragedy into an opportunity for change on campus. The young business students were charged with creating a campaign for student safety.
"We propose an idea that will take campus security to a new high," one student told the class.
Robert and Charlene Spierer flew in from New York to listen to students' ideas. It's more than a lesson to them, it's a legacy.
"The most important thing here is for them to be thinking about safety, for them to be considering how they make their lives and their friends' lives better," Robert Spierer said.
"It would be so nice to see it go forth and to do some good somewhere, because it's a tragedy for our family, so something positive would be great," Charlene Spierer added.
From all-hours safe ride escorts to "Hoosier Buddy" systems to video campaigns, most presentations focused on the campus culture at night. That's when many students, just like Lauren, still walk alone.
"The harsh reality is there are so many people walking home alone at 2 am. I'm a freshman and I see it all the time," said IU student Alyssa Sheets.
Other student groups in the class suggested creating a smartphone app that would include Lauren's story, campus safety resources and connections to cab companies to get students home unharmed.
"I was quite impressed and I think that this is a great starting point," Robert Spierer said. "Some of these ideas were absolutely terrific and I would hate to see them die on the vine."
In fact, the Spierers hope they get explored more deeply and become a reality outside the classroom at IU and even on campuses nationwide. Students would like to see that too.
"They (the Spierers) came all the way here to hear these ideas and we wanted to make them ideas that could really help make sure that what happened to Lauren never happens again," said one of the students.
The Spierers say their daughter's case remains an active investigation. They continue to communicate with Bloomington Police and their own private detective, who are all working to find Lauren.