Haruka Weiser: UT organization committed to improve safety, avoid another tragedy

It's been six years since University of Texas at Austin student Haruka Weiser was found murdered on campus. 

The community remains shaken following her murder, but organizations hope creating a safer area for students will avoid another tragedy like that again.

A memorial located on campus is a constant reminder of what happened to 18-year-old UT dance major Haruka Weiser in 2016. 

Six years ago, police say Weiser was sexually assaulted and killed on her way back to her dorm from dance rehearsal. Her convicted killer was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison for murder.

The entire incident left the entire community shaken including Joell McNew, who started the organization SafeHorns after Weiser's murder.

"It is honestly hard to believe that it has been six years," said McNew, president of SafeHorns.

SafeHorns is an organization made up of parents, students, and citizens committed to improving safety in areas where UT students live.

"[Her murder] really became this defining moment for all of us that we had to take action, we had to do something to honor her, and to let her family know that it wasn't okay. We can't bring her back, we can't change it, but we can definitely speak up and advocate to try and prevent another tragedy like this on our campus," she said.

McNew says it has been a constant effort to make UT a safer area for students ever since the tragic event, including calling for more lights and extra call boxes. Since the incident, UT has added and continues to add additional lighting, security cameras, and officers to the campus and area surrounding it.

"The spirit of Haruka and her bright faith live on across our campus every day. Her kindness, smile and enthusiasm will never be forgotten," said Soncia Reagins-Lilly, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

McNew wants the university to do more especially when it comes to communication.

"[Communication] is something that, to this day and all these years, we've been working on. We see an ebb and flow. There are times when the communication is consistent and timely and other times when we see no response at all," said McNew.

For now, McNew says Weiser's memory will always live on especially in their fight for a safer UT campus area.

"We let down the Weiser family and it was a tragedy that should not have happened. We are just, are trying to do our best to make a difference," she said.

Another initiative in Weiser's name: The Walk With Me Program. It was created by her younger sister following her murder to prevent it from ever happening again on college campuses.

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