Michigan State Makes Safety Changes After Death of Visiting Student

Changes include fencing around the river where Brendan Santo's body was discovered almost three months after he disappeared.
Published: May 9, 2022

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University (MSU) has made several safety and security changes following the death of a visiting college student.

Brendan Santo, 18, a student at nearby Grand Valley State University, was visiting friends at MSU over Halloween weekend last year when he went missing. Nearly three months later, a private investigator found Santo’s body in the Red Cedar River.

Medical examiners ruled Santo’s death an accidental drowning and reported that alcohol contributed to his death, reports Local 4. The investigation has not yet been closed.

Several weeks after Santo went missing, MSU officials said they would install hundreds of new security cameras after it was determined the camera at the entrance of the building he was last seen was not working. It was later discovered that approximately 320 cameras had been taken offline before Santo went missing, according to Local 4.

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“The university was notified of a new federal government rule that a certain microchip that was made in China was no longer allowed to be used in surveillance material,” said MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant. “That impacted the majority of the cameras that we had set up across campus.”

However, Local 4 reports the mandate to halt using cameras with those specific chips only applied to federal buildings. Guerrant told Local 4 that MSU felt it was a requirement tied to the federal funds it receives.

MSU officials did not get replacements before taking down the security cameras. When asked why the school didn’t inform students or parents that the cameras were off, Guerrant said officials were concerned about “people taking advantage of that.” The cameras have since been replaced.

“It is unfortunate what happened with Brendan, although we feel very strong too — that even had that camera been working at that hall, it would not have impacted necessarily what happened with Brendan or the investigation into, into finding him,” Guerrant continued.

Earlier this year, a petition was created on change.org calling on MSU to improve safety along the river. The petition received over 22,000 signatures, according to a statement from Santo’s family.

“There is no greater responsibility a university undertakes than the safety of their students, staff, and visitors,” read the statement.

Temporary fencing was also put up along the river where Santo was found. A university spokesperson the fence near a steep decline that leads into the river will be replaced with permanent fencing. Authorities think Santo fell into the river in a similar spot. The changes are expected to be completed by the fall when students return.

The school also launched a safety app, SafeMSU, which was designed with input by students, faculty and staff. The app features one-touch emergency calls, access to MSU’s Safe Ride, and a link to the Capital Area Transportation Authority’s NightOwl service. It also features a virtual friend walk which allows users to share their location with a friend who can follow their progress to their destination. The friend can also contact the police immediately if they believe there is an emergency.

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