In the wake of last semester’s sexual assault that occurred in between the Bannow Science Center and the Dimenna-Nyselius Library, the Department of Public Safety has made several changes to the on-campus security.
Last semester, according to CT Post, a female student was punched in the face and sexually assaulted by a middle aged man as she walked from the library to Bannow.
According to Assistant Director of DPS John Ritchie, more lighting was added in the townhouse area along with trees being trimmed back to create better lines of sight near Faber Hall in response to the event. Cameras were also added to all campus entry points and there is a University ambassador at the main entrance 24 hours a day who serves as both informational to campus visitors and as extra eyes and ears for the University. Additionally, Public Safety has purchased the EmergenSee App, an app that gives students direct contact with DPS if they feel endangered.
Ritchie commented, “We really want to push the EmergenSee app. We really want to push that students have to take the initiative to download the app in order for them to use it, and we want students to feel comfortable using the app. We’re expecting people to use it, so don’t be afraid to hit the button.”
Live video and GPS data is directly sent to the monitors at the DPS when the app is utilized. DPS can then dispatch officers to the location provided by GPS immediately to students who feel endangered and can communicate with the users of the app.
The app can be used for many different safety features. If users are alone and feel like they are in danger of being attacked, if users are in a fire or if users are having a medical emergency, they can immediately alert DPS. Additionally, the app works anywhere on campus, along with the downtown bookstore and the parking garage by the bookstore.
DPS is not eliminating in-person escorts when people are walking alone at night, but according to Ritchie, EmergenSee users can also use the Safe Walk feature on the app, where DPS monitors can virtually follow the walker with live video feed and GPS location services. Alternatively, the user can enter what time they should arrive at wherever they are going and, if the user does not press the button to indicate that they safely arrived at that time, an officer will be alerted.
Additionally, users of the app can send pictures of suspicious people to Public Safety. Ritchie commented on the app and other new security measures being taken by Public Safety.
“It’s highly unlikely that we will ever be able to provide a 100 percent safe campus,” he said. “The bottom line is, we’re still an open environment, very welcoming to outsiders … so for us to lock out outsiders is an impossible task. It’s something that cannot be done for us to thrive as an organization and as a business.”
Ritchie used the example of when prospective students visit the campus with their families, they would be turned off by an unwelcoming atmosphere.
However, some feel that DPS is not doing enough to ensure the safety of Fairfield students.
“I feel a little bit safer, but I don’t walk alone at night anymore,” said Rachel Dolan ‘17. “I think [DPS] should have done more. I only saw an officer around maybe twice surveying the campus.”
However, Calli Kapetanos ‘20 said that she does feel safe on campus because of the small size of the campus and the security changes being made.
In regards to the sexual assault, Kapetanos commented, “I feel like something like that would not happen again. It wasn’t a flaw in the campus security, it was just something that could have happened anywhere.”
Junior Molly Martin agreed that the campus is a safe place, commenting, “I feel safer on campus now that there are a lot more lights and I see DPS virtually everywhere.”
Martin explained that she did not feel safe immediately after the assault, but now feels safer knowing that flaws in the security were addressed.
Senior Morgan Sharp always felt safe on campus.
“I’ve never felt unsafe on this campus. Even when the assault happened. I’ve always kept my guard up, but I feel like DPS is doing what they can for the situation.”
Freshman Amira Ebrahim believed that the issue is not about security, but rather about people’s attitudes.
“The measures are helpful,” commented Ebrahim, “but the main cause is ignorance. These measures don’t treat the main cause of sexual assault, which is people not respecting each other.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Pellegrino added, “While we will continue to review and enhance our security systems, a few common sense measures like walking with a buddy or being aware of your situation will also go a long way to ensuring your safety. We encourage our entire community to say something if you see something by calling DPS at 203-254-4090.”