Student's disappearance a sad reminder of the need for vigilance

By Martin C. Jischke

The disappearance of freshman Wade Steffey has brought sadness to all of us in the Purdue community. The concern we feel for the safety of this young man, our sympathy for his family and close friends, and the fear and anger we are experiencing have cast a pall over a new semester that began with much optimism just two weeks ago.

Purdue police — in close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies — are working round the clock in efforts to find Wade and solve the mystery of his disappearance. Other staff members are working equally hard to support the search and to meet the needs of his family and friends. As often happens in times of crisis, this sad event has brought out the best in many of us.

A police request for volunteers to assist in searching the area around campus produced a tremendous response from students, faculty, staff and community members. Many participated in a vigil in Wade's honor Saturday. People and organizations have contributed to a reward fund, and expressions of concern have come in from throughout the country.

While we continue to look for clues to the disappearance of one of our fellow Boilermakers, we also must realize that this tragic event is a reminder that the world we live in is not always a safe one and that dangers exist even in a campus environment that usually feels serene and secure.

We do not know that foul play was a factor in Wade Steffey's disappearance — and we hope it was not — but we do know that violent crime happens on and around our campus. During the same week that Wade disappeared, another student reported a late-night assault. Similar incidents have occurred earlier in the academic year.

Our police remind us regularly that traveling alone and on foot at night can be dangerous. This is true for faculty and staff, as well as students, but I worry more about our students because they keep later hours and perhaps take more risks. Their vulnerability increases when alcohol is involved.

I hope everyone will take the simple precautions that will keep them safe: Always travel with company, stay out of remote areas, and don't abuse alcohol.

While we look for and pray for the safety of Wade Steffey, I want all members of our university family to take care of themselves and one another.


To the News Service home page