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campus security and victimization

My university sends out security alert emails whenever there's a security concern involving a student, even if it doesn't happen on-campus. They're good for the obvious practical issues, but they also tell you a lot about university culture. I've received them from four different schools over the years, and the difference in university expectations and norms really shows in the situations they choose to inform you of, the information they give or don't give. Here's one we received this morning:

At approximately 4:50 a.m., on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, Fordham Security was contacted by a female student who reported that she was followed into the lobby of her private, off-campus apartment and groped by at least three unidentified males.

The student said she left a local bar at approximately 3:45 a.m. and walked to her apartment at E. 188 St. and Hoffman Ave., and as she was entering the foyer she noticed the unidentified males approaching her. She told Security that the assailants groped her and verbally harassed her. The student said she eventually gained access to the inner foyer door and locked the men out. The student did not receive any injuries.

The NYPD responded to the incident but were unable to apprehend the suspects. Anyone with information concerning this incident should contact the 48 Precinct Detective Squad at (718) 299-4119 or Fordham University Security at (718) 817-2222 and ask to speak to a Duty Supervisor.

Students are reminded of availability the off-campus transportation between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily.


So the incident occurred off-campus and they still reported it; that's not entirely surprising given that Fordham is a city school with a good number of students living in the neighborhood around campus and even the on-campus students regularly going to those same bars. The police are also involved and actually taking the lead, which is also definitely good.

But again, campus security seems to be taking the after-effects too lightly. That's not their job, of course, but given that this is the only communication we'll probably receive about this university, they could do better. First and foremost, if this woman was groped she was injured. I'd argue verbal harassment is also injuring. She may not have received physical injuries, which I'm sure is what they mean, but the language here sends the definite message that being groped and the resulting psychological trauma doesn't count as a "real" injury.

On a related note, aside from the details of the attack and who to contact with info, the only other information given is that the campus provides security escorts between certain hours. Stone-cold sober, I wouldn't have the first clue how to ask for an escort given this information. I suppose there's a phone number to call, but at a minimum you should include that number. Better yet, you should provide a link to a brochure on practical self-defense off campus like practicing the buddy system. (In Cleveland my friends who went out drinking - that's not my scene so I only heard of the practice secondhand - would have a "designated walker," someone who stayed sober that night and made sure everyone stayed safe walking home.) I'm sure some Fordham group has worked up a tip sheet, and if they hadn't, they should; it's quite common with urban schools.

I also would have liked to see the phone number of psychological services with a line that they could help anyone who experienced sexual violence, or even just violence generally. Aside from the practical impact this would have, it would send a very different message than the one communicated by this email. As written, it sounds like not only was this woman not really hurt, it was her own fault for not calling the brawny men of campus security for an escort home.

This isn't a particularly outlandish email; I've received other similar ones from Fordham and other unis I've attended. But in light of the hate acts done on campus, I've been trying to pay attention to the subtle signals unis send in their communications with students. This one struck me as "needs improvement."

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