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'We don't feel safe in our dorms' | Winthrop University students hold protest, demand action to make campus safer

The demand for a safer experience for students comes after a student was sexually assaulted in a dorm in November. Police say the suspect wasn't a student.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Students at Winthrop University demanded campus leaders take action to make the school safer for students and staff. 

On Friday night, a few dozen university students sat in protest in front of a large banner that read 'Winthrop is not safe."

They were protesting on a campus, they said, they don't feel safe on. 

"This must be addressed immediately," one protester said as she spoke into a megaphone in front of the crowd. 

Freshman Ravyn Speigner was among the students who turned out for the protest, saying change must be made. 

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"We trust that we're paying $30,000 to be protected," he said, arguing they aren't protected enough. 

"The last thing we want to do on a Friday night as college kids is come out here and protest because we don't feel safe in our dorms," he added. 

The pleas for protection come after campus police say a man somehow got into Phelps Hall in mid-November and sexually assaulted a student inside the hall. 

RELATED: 'It is very concerning' | Students on alert as man wanted for Winthrop University sexual assault

Police sent out pictures of the suspect who they said was caught on surveillance cameras walking in the building and around campus. 

The pictures showed a male wearing a backpack, although police say he's not a student at the university and did not know the suspect. 

At the time of the incident, the suspect was wearing:

  • Dark blue/black baseball hat with small white in color logo
  • Carolina Panthers jacket/sweatshirt. The majority of the item was light blue in color, with the shoulder area being dark blue in color
  • Dark-colored, possibly gray, pants
  • Black athletics shoes, with white bottom trim

"I don't feel safe at all," Melody Gruerin said. 

For the freshman, who said she is a sexual assault survivor, the recent attack is triggering. 

"They sent us photos of him walking down the path I walk every day," Gruerin said. "And I could have walked past him and not even known."

Dozens of students would like the university to add better security at dorms, not only relying on fobs to gain access to the buildings. They'd also like the school to fix any emergency blue lights they say could be broken.

There are several lights around campus, but students want more of them, because in some parts, it's quite dark at night without them, they said. 

"This is pressure on Winthrop," Gruerin said.

WCNC Charlotte reached out to Winthrop University after hours for a response to the student-led protest and demands, but as of Friday night when this article was published, officials had not responded. 

In November, campus officials told us residence halls are locked 24/7 and students need a Winthrop ID to get inside. They continue to ask everyone on campus to be vigilant. 

The suspect from the November sexual assault is still on the run. 

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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