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Sexual assault incident sparks Seton Hall students' anger, questions about on campus safety

By Samantha Desmond
On November 18, 2010

After the on-campus sexual assault of a female student on the night of Nov. 16, the Seton Hall community has been shaken, the sense of security once felt, violated.

The crime, according to a broadcast e-mail, occurred in the F-lot near the entrance of Ivy Hill Park around 11 p.m., a time when students are still active on campus.  Now, in the wake of crime striking campus, students have been left questioning their own safety on campus. 

Junior Omar Ahmad, music director at WSOU, which is located in the F-lot, was walking down near the scene of the assault around 12 a.m. on Wednesday when he returned to the station.  Ahmad noted the vacancy of the area by any personnel in that portion of campus.

"The area by the station is an area not many people go by and Securitas rarely goes by there," Ahmad said. 

 According to Ahmad, when he was notified of the assault, he immediately became concerned about station staff, particularly because a large portion of staff are females.  He also said he thought a Pirate Alert notifications should have been sent to students, especially since WSOU has students frequenting the station at all hours.

"Working at WSOU and coming out late is not safe," Ahmad said.  "They need to be aware that areas of campus operate 24-7 and those areas need to be notified.  I think it's kind of upsetting that we receive messages about snow days and not sexual assault."

Ahmad said he saw two South Orange Police Department vehicles around 12 a.m. Wednesday, prior to being notified of the event through broadcast e-mail, but did not feel any heightened anxiety or sense of danger.   Rather, he said he felt safe seeing a police presence. 

"I felt a little safe seeing there are cop cars taking an interest," Ahmad said. 

Junior Yasmin Elkarrimy, also a diplomacy senator, is a commuter who often stays on campus until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. because of meetings.  According to Elkarrimy, she felt the response from Public Safety was not one which was sufficient or reassuring. 

"The response we got from Public Safety was this is sad that it happened, but this is her fault in the end, this is your fault that crime happens and that you are easy targets," Elkarrimy said. 

Elkarrimy continued to say that she did not feel like students should have to resort to the same rules on campus as they do off campus, in traveling with groups in order to feel safe. 

Ahmad also stressed the necessity for student comfort on campus, no matter what hour of the day it is.

"We should be able to feel safe on our own campus," Ahmad said. 

However, students are not feeling safe on campus. 

According to junior Lianne Messina, the recent assault has left her feeling unsafe after dark.

"I really don't feel comfortable at all, and it's a gated campus and students shouldn't have to feel unsafe," Messina said. 

Julia Coltrinari, who lives off campus and typically walks home or utilizes the CASE van, said she now feels unsafe walking across campus to Public Safety after the assault.

"It was really unexpected," Coltrinari said.  "You feel protected even though it's a bad area."

Unlike Coltrinari, freshman Melissa Avila said that she even questions the security on campus, although there appears to be a strong presence.

"I feel like they say we have a lot of security, but it's just a lie," Avila said.  

Both Ahmad and Elkarrimy pointed to a lack of security by the failure of Public Safety to identify the culprit of the assault, questioning why there is no surveillance evidence or why a record of a visiting vehicle was not taken at the gate. 

For now, students have been asked, according to the broadcast e-mail by Public Safety, to travel in groups both on and off campus.  While some view this as irrational, others view it as simply playing it smart. 

Freshman Stephanie Alvarado said she is not worried by the assault because crimes like that happen everywhere.

"We just have to be aware of our surroundings and be smart," Alvarado said. 

Samantha Desmond can be reached at samantha.desmond@student.shu.edu


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