Multiple women on Dixie State University’s campus were sexually harassed this semester by the same man.
The problem came to light when Sheila Gelter, a junior education major from St. George, had a particularly uncomfortable encounter with the man in question. She said it occurred on a Sunday when she came to the campus library to study after church.
“I made the mistake of wearing high heels and a dress,” Gelter said. “He followed me all the way from my car to the second floor of the Holland building. He made comments like, ‘I haven’t seen you around here before. Can I take you out for dinner sometime?’ I was so uncomfortable.”
Gelter works as a receptionist in the library of Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons where the man continued to approach her.
“He uses the same lines with a lot of the girls it seems,” Gelter said. “They say he asks them out or comments on how sexy they are.”
Brieana Rebman, a senior nursing major from Bountiful, was with Gelter when the man made inappropriate comments about her dress.
“I’m just wondering why they can’t ban this guy from campus if he is lurking and hitting on girls,” Rebman said. “I wonder why they aren’t doing anything but just watching him.”
Campus police have been able to settle Rebman’s question, which has also been sitting on the minds of the other women — the same women who campus police have gathered statements from about this man’s questionable behavior.
“We’ve investigated every call we’ve gotten, and we have nothing we can sink any legal teeth into,” Campus Security Director Don Reid said. “This guy’s just got bad behavior.”
In a situation like this, Reid said the only legal action they are allowed to take is to get a full criminal history check, arrest record and any other legal documentation linked to the perpetrator. They also have asked the women who know of this man to give campus officers a call whenever they see him behaving strangely.
“He walked out [of the Holland] one day, and it gave me the opportunity to stop him and talk to him,” Reid said. “The man said, ‘How come every time I turn around I see you?’ And I said, ‘Well, because you’ve earned that. There’s not enough of us to follow everybody around, but if we’re following you around, you’ve earned it.’”
Another DSU student, who requested anonymity, had a face-to-face encounter with the man that made her particularly uncomfortable.
She said while on her way to her math class Nov. 11, the man stopped her to talk and she politely told him she was late. She went inside to her classroom, but he followed her and walked past her classroom door at least four times while looking inside at her.
“The next day, I was in class, really focused on math,” she said, “I looked over, and he was across the hallway, leaning against the wall just staring at me. I looked up at him again, and he just laughed and walked away.”
When she finally went to campus police, they expressed their gratitude that she had decided to speak out about the incident.
“When a girl comes to us and says there’s this guy who hasn’t really done anything wrong, but he’s been acting kind of strange and weird, we really appreciate that,” Reid said. “That’s why we encourage girls to be vocal about these things. It doesn’t matter if he seems weird and trivial; it doesn’t matter to us — just tell us.”
After gathering a report of the man’s records and statements from the women, Dean of Students Del Beatty brought in the man to review his behavior and the concerns from everyone involved.
Beatty said the man in question has agreed to refrain from bothering women anymore. Beatty also emphasized the man is still a student at DSU and is going to be respected as such as long as his behavior no longer violates the student Code of Conduct.
“We are super proactive in protecting the students,” Beatty said. “If we don’t know there’s a problem, then there’s no way we can work to solve it. So we tell students all the time: If you feel unsafe, then you need to let somebody know.”