Thursday, November 30, 2023

Almost 10 years after Bonistall death, mother seeks to restart PEACE OUTside

NewsCampus NewsAlmost 10 years after Bonistall death, mother seeks to restart PEACE OUTside

Managing News Editor

This age-old adage, tossed around for centuries, has taken on the form of cure-all mantra for those mourning some sort of loss. For some it is true as the shock of a heartbreak or death fades away.

But there are exceptions. The death of Lindsey Bonistall is a case like this. It transcends the band-aid cures of time and distractions. Never before has a crime shaken the campus or Newark community so much as that early May night in 2005 when James Cooke murdered Bonistall in her off-campus apartment.

The reminders still exist to this day, highlighted by a memorial tree and bench on Academy Street and scholarships in Bonistall’s honor. Yet absent from campus is one of the most powerful pieces of Bonistall’s legacy, the PEACE OUTside Campus (POC) foundation.

Kathleen Bonistall, Lindsey’s mother, founded and helps run the organization to this day. She said she still feels the effects of Lindsey’s loss, but that the organization gives her a chance to keep her daughter around in some capacity. She said at its strongest, POC was active on seven campuses at once, though that number has since dwindled to zero.

Bonistall is in the midst of reinvigorating the organization by working with similar organizations and developing an ambassador program. The ambassador program will allow the charity to adapt better when members graduate.

The organization has had issues being passed down after founding members graduate, Boinstall said.

Despite the possibility of bad memories, Bonistall said she would jump at the opportunity to reunite the university with POC and build a stronger relationship this time around. She said she met with several female students from the university over the past year who wanted to start a chapter, but once they graduated the plan once again fell flat.

“We would welcome that,” Bonistall said. “I was a little saddened to see nothing happening there the last semester or two, but just when you think nobody is going to do anything at that school, there’s suddenly interest.”

05.04.05 BONISTALLCourtesy of Bonistall family
Bonistall’s family founded PEACE OUTside Campus to call for comprehensive safety and safety education for college students.

One of POC’s main principles is to create a voice, calling for student safety that is not just from university administration. Their action plan includes a pre-college program, Teens ‘N’ Transition, as well as resources such as Living Off-Campus 101 and an Off-Campus Housing Program.

These are aimed at making sure nobody experiences what her family did by providing useful, unconventional knowledge, she said.

“You are hearing it from your peers,” she said. “It is different when someone can say ‘Don’t do that because this is what happened to me…’ It is so much more powerful. It’s a conversation, not a lecture.”

Pace University student Benjamin Shannon, the assistant program coordinator at POC, said while the message of POC may be nuanced, the delivery is different since it comes from peers.

“It creates a dynamic that we can create with a student that doesn’t necessarily exist with a guidance counselor or another adult,” Shannon said.

He also said coming back to the university is something the group has wanted to do, and they plan on initiating contact with the school soon.

James Morrison, a member of the Faculty Senate committee on Student Life at the university, said he remembers the shockwaves that went through campus when the crime was committed.

He said the university and the student body are far more sensitive to crime and safety than before the murder, but the situation is still difficult with so many students living off campus.

Morrison said the sensitivity as a student body––along with an uptick of UD Alerts––would lend itself to a student organization, such as PEACE OUTside Campus. He also said while students want the university to provide them with a safe campus, there have to be other voices as an alternative sometimes to assist.

Although it has been years since the death, Morrison said, the incident is part of campus history, and the university could still use stronger student safety advocacy from other students.

“They want to trust the administration down deep, but I’m not sure they perceive the administration as being able to do that,” Morrison said. “But I think they realize that there has to be student organizations, or any public organization, to turn to when these things happen.”




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