Safe and sound at SJU

Over the last few weeks, it seems that every time I pick up a newspaper or watch the news on TV, another major incident has occurred on a college campus. Yale, for example, has constantly made it into the headlines recently, and not for its prestigious academic reputation, either. As everyone probably knows, graduate student Annie Le disappeared a couple of days before she was supposed to get married, leaving many wondering if she was merely a bride who got cold feet. Days later, her body was found stuffed behind a wall inside a university laboratory building located on Yale’s medical school campus. According to police, the petite 24-year-old pharmacology student had been strangled.

Police then arrested a lab technician who worked with Le. According to authorities, his DNA matched crime scene evidence.

This unsettling story left me wondering: how could an event so horrific happen at one of this country’s most reputable universities? According to Yale’s Web site, all employees of the school must go through a pre-employment screening, which includes a criminal history check and employment verification.

But how effective is a background check? Clark obviously passed this test.

At St. John’s, potential employees also undergo a background check. If someone applies for a job here, there is a page on the application they must sign, allowing St. John’s to obtain a report regarding their credit background and criminal record, among other information.

While it is important to have this type of pre-employment screening in place, the Yale case just goes to show that it isn’t entirely effective. Just because employees pass a background check doesn’t completely ensure that they won’t engage in questionable behavior on the job in the future.

Another story that caught a lot of attention happened last week at Hofstra University, located a short drive from St. John’s in Hempstead, Long Island. It was reported that an 18-year-old female student was sexually assaulted by five men inside a men’s bathroom at Hofstra. Only one of the men was actually a Hofstra student; the other four were signed in as overnight guests. Four of the men (including the one that was a Hofstra student) were arrested, but just a few days later, charges were dropped when, according to authorities, the girl changed her story.

Regardless of what is true about the incident, it got me thinking about the overall security here at St. John’s. In light of the Yale and Hofstra incidents, would St. John’s think of beefing up security on campus?

According to Dominic Petruzzelli, director of residence life, the security system in the dorms will not be changed.

“We’re following standard procedures, making sure all the cameras are working, all the turnstiles are working, all of the equipment is up-to-date in regards to entry into the residence halls,” he said.

The Residence Village happens to be the most secure part of campus because students have to swipe in every time they enter and if a person doesn’t live in one of the dorms, they need someone to sign them in. But, the rest of the University buildings aren’t as secure.

Anyone can walk into one of the main buildings on campus like the University Center, Marillac, Sullivan, Bent and St. John Halls. The gates around campus are also pretty open as well, allowing outsiders easy access to this Queens campus. Most of them close around 11 p.m. except for Gate 6 which is open 24/7, but students have to swipe in after a certain hour. The campus is also heavily monitored by security cameras at all hours of the day.

Petruzzelli said that Public Safety and the dean’s office have fielded some phone calls from concerned parents, and because of how easy it is to enter campus these concerns are definitely warranted.

“We have assured parents and students that we’re operating a very secure campus, if not the most secure campus in the New York area,” Petruzzelli said.

While Petruzzelli stated that if something threatening occurs on campus the University will address it, why wait until something actually happens to increase security?

Sure, it’s impossible to predict the unknown, but the University can’t ignore the fact that tragedy could easily strike very close to home.