Windows of opportunity

University maintenance workers removed screws this week that had formerly secured all first floor windows in the residence buildings. Only windows with broken mechanisms and common room windows in both Hollis or DaSilva Hall remain secured.

The policy was originally implemented sometime between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 after the rape of a St. John’s freshman. A preliminary investigation found that the men involved in the incident had gained access to DaSilva Hall through a first floor window.

“Obviously the decision was made to bolt them because students were using them to come in,” said Jose Rodriguez, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students. “Whether popping them open or letting people in from the inside, [the windows] were being taken advantage of. We had to have a quick reaction; but after, we circled back. We needed to be conscious of student needs and concerns.”

Rodriguez, who is also the interim director of Residence Life, pointed to the general perception of students regarding the first floor windows, the complaints about rising temperatures on those rooms and the inability of students to control the room climate as the main reasons for reversing the policy.

“We don’t rest with any one plan. We’re always reviewing what we do and seeing how plans work in different areas,” Rodriguez said. “The idea of climate problems is more of a feeling than a reality though.”

Rodriguez, along with Tom Lawrence, vice president of Public Safety, identified the first floor windows in Hollis and DaSilva Halls as the areas of greatest concern based upon the type and size of the windows.

“By tampering with the windows in Hollis and DaSilva, students were able to fit within them,” Rodriguez said. “Even though none of the windows were designed to be opened fully, students either broke latches or took advantage of faulty ones.”

As Rodriguez noted, students were troubled and upset in the days after having their first floor windows bolted shut.

“It was ridiculous,” sophomore Mike Martin said. “We couldn’t get any fresh air and it was just really stuffy in the rooms. Now at least it’s back to normal.”

Freshman Eleonora Bartolini agreed with Martin.

“It was probably more secure that way but people would probably find a way to sneak in even with the windows screwed shut,” she said.

At least from one student’s perspective, the window maintenance had a good, albeit unintentional, result.

“We couldn’t get our windows open before they screwed them shut anyway,” freshman Ryan Kowalick said. “Now that they screwed them and then took them out we can at least open up our windows now.”

The University investigation into who allowed the men inside the building proved inconclusive, according to Rodriguez.

“It was determined that no one could be held responsible since we could not tell which specific window was used or pinpoint one person,” Rodriguez said. “We spoke to students in the area and could not form any definitive conclusions.”

And while Rodriguez recognized the possibility that the men, on Sept. 29, could have entered DaSilva Hall without the help of any students on the inside, he wants students to know that it’s not a situation the University takes lightly.

“We will take it very seriously if we find students who are tampering with windows. This is something that we just can’t have,” said Rodriguez.

According to Rodriguez, University vice president of Student Affairs, the Rev. James Maher, C.M., is writing a letter to the St. John’s community regarding the questions of safety and security and the role the University expects students to take.

Rodriguez, in addressing the matter of the windows, also spoke of Public Safety’s role in maintaining campus security.

“It comes down to our own students helping us by calling Public Safety when they hear or see something strange on campus. I think that Public Safety is doing a very good job but the campus is very large and it is quite a task to cover the entire area,” Rodriguez said of insuring safety. “The key thing is that people need to take more responsibility in the community and partner with us to make St. John’s as safe as possible.”