When a first-year student, who asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns, Jane Doe ventured to the DiMenna-Nyselius Library with her two friends on Saturday, Feb. 23, facing a potential invasion of privacy never crossed any of their minds. After being in the library for about two hours, the three first-year students felt threatened by a questionable person lurking around them.
According to the director of Fairfield University’s Department of Public Safety, Todd Pelazza, “Students were concerned about suspicious behavior from a male non-community member who appeared to be either filming or taking photos of them on the second floor of the library.”
According to Doe, the three friends went to the library around 1:00 p.m. and believe the male to have arrived around 3:00 p.m. Doe explained that the male had been in the library for a while, when she noticed he was holding his phone upwards in a way that appeared he was recording.
“He was very obviously recording. It was so obvious that I thought he wouldn’t be recording me … and I dismissed it,” said Doe.
Doe moved to sit in a different chair when one of her friends approached her and expressed immediate concern to leave the library. Her friend had been watching the suspicious male and believed that he had definitely been recording the three students.
“He had his phone up … and then he set it down and rested it on his computer and then moved it so that the camera was still on us,” said Doe.
The girls immediately felt compelled to pack up their stuff and leave the library. They explained that the individual could have been filming them for about 45 minutes until they realized what was happening. Before exiting the library the three students went to the circulation desk to explain what they had witnessed. The employees who were behind the desk at the time of the incident then called DPS.
DPS received a call from the library at 5:48 p.m.
“DPS came and basically flooded the library,” said Doe. “There was like six DPS officers and we airdropped a photo of the guy to the DPS officers.”
The three students were told they could leave the library and would be notified with updates of the situation.
“I was very impressed with how seriously DPS took us. They could easily have been like ‘you’re being paranoid,’ but they took us really seriously and responded so quickly to it,” said Doe. The students estimated that it took DPS about five minutes to arrive at the library.
DPS later told the students that the individual had no distinct reason to be on campus, and when officers went to go and talk to him, he “faked a phone call,” and officers believed that the individual to be deleting photos and/or videos from his phone.
“Officers responded and identified the individual. The individual denied taking pictures, however, was somewhat non-compliant with other officer requests,” said Pelazza. “This individual was escorted out of the building and off campus after being issued a criminal trespass warning.”
Pelazza explained that the criminal trespass warning bans the individual from campus, and if found on the grounds of Fairfield, “ he will be arrested for Criminal Trespass in the first degree.”
Following this incident, a new protocol has been initiated where all non-university faculty, staff and students will need to produce an authentic ID upon entering the library and be required to sign-in at the front desk.
“It just feels very violating,” said Doe. “I’m supposed to feel safe to be in the library. I shouldn’t have to look out for people videoing me while I’m studying.”