By: Hafeezah Nazim, Editor-In-Chief
In early November, Foreign Languages Professor Carole Macotta returned to her office in the Humanities Building, after attending an out-of-state conference to find that her laptop and small printer had been stolen.
In response, NYPD and the Information Technology (IT) department assisted her by opening an investigation and giving her a “loaner” computer. Though her laptop was later recovered after the investigation, Macotta was not the only one who was targeted. Over the course of several weeks late last semester, several laptops – belonging to professors who work in the Humanities Building – were reported stolen from the 4th and 8th floors.Anthropology Professor Halbert Barton was says that he was “hit extra hard” by the thefts. “I had two laptops stolen with a DVD player, flash drives, chargers, and cords,” he wrote to Seawanhaka in an email.
But Barton was not alone. “The first round of laptop thefts on the 4th floor Humanities occurred on November 8. My laptop was stolen as well,” says Srividhya Swaminathan, chair of the English department. “The administration was informed that while we would be given ‘loaner’ computers, our computers would not be replaced.
No further action was taken to tighten security, so over the next six or seven weeks, several more laptops have been stolen. Just before Christmas, the 8th floor of the building had laptops stolen, and the English Department had 11 MacBook Pros from our composition computer cart stolen. That is what finally prompted the administration to take action.”
The University’s Response
On December 21, a month after the first incident, LIU Vice President of Academic Affairs & Chief Operating Officer Gale Stevens Haynes issued two statements in response to the burglaries, including a list of improved security measures to ensure the safety of professors, students, and staff.
The updated statement read, “We write in response to concerns regarding recent campus thefts and campus security. While the administration and public safety have been proactive in responding to the reports received over the last few weeks, we intentionally have not publicized the thefts or our actions because we did not want to create a sense of alarm or compromise our efforts to apprehend the individuals responsible.”
The measures implemented at the end of the fall semester included an updated camera surveillance system, the replacement of locks over winter break, and new security and janitorial procedures in the morning and evening to ensure the safety of assets. According to Gale Haynes, the new security procedures are being “implemented for all major offices, laboratories, and faculty floors. All such spaces will be locked at the close of classes by security and opened by security each morning.”
Seawanhaka placed an interview request to VP Haynes to learn the whether an investigation into the missing laptops was still active, but did not receive a response.
While these procedures are made to improve the safety and security of faculty and their assets, Swaminathan argues that changes should have been made sooner rather than later. “The most basic first point of security would have been to install cameras on our floor,” she says. “Also, all the locks should have been changed. If theft continued then we could have at least isolated the perpetrator as someone coming from inside or outside the university.”
Closer Look At Campus Crime
According to the 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, there were no reports of burglary on Brooklyn Campus property from 2013-2015, the last updated year. However, In 2013, there was one reported case of burglary on public property. And in 2015, there were four reported cases of burglary in the dorms/residential areas.
For faculty members like Swaminathan, there are specific procedures that can be taken to prevent the theft of personal belongings. “I do not think that there should be any activity on office floors after 8pm. [The] cleaning of classrooms and the like can take place later, but why not lock the office floors after 8pm with entry permitted only to faculty who need access to their office?” she asks. “I also now doubt that anyone’s office is secure and hope that all offices can be supplied with at least one locked cabinet; and only the faculty member will have the key to that cabinet.
One Night in November
But security issues aren’t limited to stolen laptops and equipment in the English department. Last November, an incident involving two young men who were on the Conolly Hall trespassing list entered the residence hall and assaulted a student outside her dorm. A student athlete, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Seawanhaka that he got involved by punching one of the assailants in the face and fighting off their advances.
“To be honest I was just checking up on the female, who sounded like she was in distress. She was in the hallway, so I just, looked out the hallway to make sure that she was good,” the athlete added. “And the [attacker] was acting funny, acting kind of rude. And he looked at me and I guess he felt some type of way or something. My initial reaction was just to make sure she was all right [and that] nothing was going out of turn. But clearly, it did go out of turn.”
He claims that issues like this could have been prevented if security guards on duty consistently check for names on the trespass list. ” I feel like when somebody’s on the banned list like, they should [be on the list] way, way, way longer before they get back on campus. You know, depending on what the reasoning is. So you know, for these guys to be repeatedly doing what they’ve been doing [harassing women in the dorms] for the past two years, they should have been banned from this campus for life, to be honest.
Efforts by Seawanhaka to reach the Student Government Association president for reaction about the handling of the list were not successful. But according to Director of Athletics and Head of Security Brad Cohen, these procedures are fundamental to how the campus operates. “The trespass list is a list where someone gets put on if they’ve committed an infraction, or they’re in trouble with the law, or someone has a restraining order against them. And what happens is, a few people that can put people on the trespass list. Myself, the Dean of Students Jessica Hayes, our Vice President but after we do that, it’s usually we’ll put someone on the trespass list to be on the safe side. And then, in order for them to get on campus, they can come; security will escort them to my office or the Dean of Students’ office. And then we’ll discuss what the situation is and we’ll go from there and figure out of we can get them off or if we have to leave them on.
The trespass list is updated every three to four months. Every base, entrance or exit has a copy of the list of those people who are on the trespass list. If anyone does show up that’s on the trespass list we are usually very cordial about it, we’re just not going to have to have someone arrested that’s on the trespass list that’s showing up to campus. But it’s to safeguard our students, and protect our students and faculty and administration from potential danger.”
The growing concern about security among students and faculty comes after a number of recent changes at the Brooklyn Campus, including the hiring of Allied Barton Security Services in 2015 and the Yonkers-based cleaning service A&A Maintenance last year.