“Given the size of our campus and our openness to visitors, each of us must make a personal commitment to promote safety and security for ourselves and others.”
Good thing your usually paranoid WesParents were kept busy this weekend. Otherwise they might have heard through the grapevine about the inordinate number of P-Safe reports students received. Ranging from the awkward to the truly menacing, each report detailed an account of students approached at night by men, and all of them ended in shouting or physical confrontations. The first one, from Friday night (or Saturday morning, depending on how you operate), seems merely socially awkward:
Public Safety would like to inform the community that on Saturday 10/20/12 at 2:44am a female was walking on Church St and was approached by a male subject who put his arm around her and asked her to walk with him. The male removed his arm and tried to start a conversation with the student. Several other students walked by and the female walked away from the male and into the Exley Science Center. The male shouted out to her but did not follow her. The male then left the area and the student later notified Public Safety of the incident. The student was not injured and declined to speak with Middletown Police.
The student described the suspect as an African-American male, 5″ 6″ tall, medium build in, his late 20’s or early 30’s, short hair, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans and carrying a backpack.
The next incident of which we were notified occurred earlier in the same night:
Public Safety would like to inform the community that on Saturday 10/20/12 at approximately 12:10am several students were walking in the area of High and Church Streets when they were approached by several subjects who attempted to engage them in conversation. The subjects then began chasing the students knocking one to the ground then striking him several times. The subjects then fled the scene. One student received minor injuries that did not require medical attention. The students then returned to their residences reporting the incident later to Public Safety and declined to speak with Middletown Police.
The students described the suspects as a three African-American males, in their early 20’s, medium build one was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt the second had braided hair and was approximately 5’5″ tall and the third suspect was approximately 5’9″ tall.
Apparently a student (or PSafe, it’s a little unclear from the wording) found one of those guys, but as the subject was a non-student, the MPD took care of it:
Public Safety would like to update the Wesleyan community concerning the Public Safety Alert regarding the assault that occurred on 10/20/12 in the area of High and Church Streets. On Sunday 10/21/12 at 2:11am Public Safety was approached by a student at a party on Fountain Ave and identified a non-student attending the party as being one of the subjects involved in the assault. Public Safety identified the subject who was arrested by Middletown police on unrelated charges.
And this last mugging from Saturday night, perhaps all the more disturbing because it was in the center of campus, involved a weapon, and occurred not even very late at night:
Public Safety would like to inform the community that on Sunday 10/21/12 at approximately 9:00pm a student was walking on Andrus Field when he was approached from behind by 3 individuals. When the student turned around he was struck in the face by one of the subjects. One of the subjects then pulled out what was believed to be an air soft gun and demanded the student’s belongings. The student then fought back and fled the area. The subjects were last seen fleeing towards Washington St. The student was treated for facial injuries at the hospital.
The student described the first subject as an African-American male 5’10” tall with a slim build, the second suspect as a Hispanic male 5″7″ tall with a slim build and could not provide any information on the third subject. All subjects were believed to be in their late teens.
This follows on a series of campus robberies as well as a New York Times article about campus safety this summer. It is impossible not to notice the race of the attackers, who are mentioned as being African-American or Hispanic whenever they can be described. Is this the result of a bias on the part of the students who reported the incidents or the fact that there might be a consistent assailant involved? Adam Rotstein ’13 seemed to assert the former viewpoint on Twitter with his own, much retweeted version of a Public Safety alert, which might have specifically been in response to the “walk with me” incident:
PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT: A male African American student just approached me politely and asked me for a pen in Olin.
— Adam Rotstein (@madamepotstein) October 21, 2012
Debates have raged on the ACB, with some commenters standing up for the students that were accused of bias:
The incidents certainly look bad for P-Safe, considering the amount of energy they spent haranguing students for chalking or occupying Board of Trustee meetings during the day. People on the ACB have reacted in bitter and contradictory ways, especially to the events on Saturday. Some commenters are saying that P-Safe is failing to protect students from outside threats and instead spends too much energy every weekend trying to “save students from themselves.”
Others have emphasized our social standing in relation to Middletown and the fact that, despite our openness as a campus, perhaps there is a sense of insulation that pervades our community, and that insulation makes us vulnerable to class anger:
(On a side note, I haven’t seen anything to back up the assertion that black Middletown residents face P-Safe or MPD harassment when they walk around campus, and I have often seen Middletown residents making use of Andrus field, Olin, etc., without being stopped. I know Olin, in particular, welcomes patrons from Middletown. But not being a black Middletown resident, I can’t know for sure whether all interactions have been positive.)
In contrast to the email sent out late this afternoon by P-Safe Director Dave Meyer and Dean Whaley, which offered security tips and to some students smacked of victim-blaming, students on the ACB urged P-Safe to redistribute its energies, in particular patrolling the areas around Church and High street and the Rises, where many incidents seem to have recently occurred, rather than busting up every party and bickering with chalkers. The e-mail from this afternoon does indeed mention “adding extra patrols of the campus beginning tonight and continuing through the upcoming weekend… [and] Middletown Police officers to supplement these patrols, ” but it doesn’t say where. The ACB’ers also suggested improving the lighting around these areas. All very practical solutions, but then there’s the post about digging a moat and filling it with electric eels. Oh, ACB…