It was reported today that a 20-year-old female student at Dartmouth may be forced to give up her hard-earned Ivy League education due to the school's no gun policy. Taylor Woolrich, a junior at Dartmouth says she's been living in fear of a man who has been her stalker since she was in high school and that the university will not allow her to carry a gun to protect herself. Woolrich says “It's absolutely unfair” that the school won't make an exception on its campus-wide ban on weapons. She goes on to say that “This is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with.”
The man stalking her, 67-year-old Richard Bennett, began harassing Woolrich when she was only 16 years old. Bennett began visit the cafe where Woolrich worked and would stay and stare at her for hours on end. When he wasn't inside the shop he would be just outside and always watching her. Woolrich said he attempted numerous times to flirt with her despite her visible discomfort with him. Bennett even followed her home and when approached, he stated he “was trying to protect her.” Woolrich filed a restraining order but it did little to deter Bennett.
Since attending Dartmouth, Bennett has harassed Woolrich via social media and has sent her threatening messages saying that he's going to fly across the country to see her. When Woolrich returned home for summer vacation, Bennett was at her door within no less than eight hours of her plane landing. Woolrich immediately called the police and Bennett was arrested for violating the restraining order as well as felony stalking. A search of Bennett's car revealed dangerous and unsettling materials including a slip noose, a knife, gloves and other items.
While Bennett is currently serving in a San Diego County jail, his maximum sentence is only four years and that's assuming he's convicted on his upcoming Aug. 20 court date. Woolrich has expressed her anxiety over this issue and has stated that “There's no options. There's no one to go to.” While this story has yet again brought up the heated gun debate that's so prevalent in this country, it leaves a bigger question pushed off to the wayside. Are campuses doing enough to protect students, namely female students?
With fall semester coming up fast, everyone is reminded of the near constant cases of stalking, assault, violence and rape that female college students are forced to face. Thousands of students are getting ready to head back to their campuses in a few weeks and very little is being done to ensure their safety. The fact that female students’ peace of mind on campus can only be found in a firearm is a very real, very serious problem and campuses all across the country need to be doing more than issuing suspensions and slaps on the wrists of on-campus criminals and doing more to keep public criminals off of campus properties. If Bennett is not convicted it wouldn’t be a big feat for him to make his way onto the Dartmouth campus and do some serious damage to an innocent woman.