Pioneer Hall tense after weekend sexual assault

With no suspects in the rape, some Pioneer Hall residents are concerned about their safety.

Tom Moran

At 11:15 Monday morning, the remnants of a crime scene and its subsequent police investigation were scrubbed away from Pioneer Hall bathroom N335. While the physical evidence is gone, emotional damage remains.

Early Sunday morning, an 18-year-old female University student was pulled into a third-floor Pioneer Hall bathroom by two strangers. She was held down by one man and sexually assaulted by the second. In the aftermath, hall residents described the atmosphere as tense and said Monday that they felt invaded.

First-year biochemistry student Matt Johnson said he was gone during the weekend, but noticed a change in the environment around the residence hall Monday. He described the atmosphere as “on edge.”

“The doors in my hallways are usually open,” he said. “But today they’re all closed.”

Alicia Serafin, a preveterinary first-year student, said she was returning home to Pioneer Hall at the same time the assault was taking place. Serafin said she knows the victim and the people she had been with that night, and was shocked when she found out about the incident the next morning.

“It’s our hall, we’ve partied in that room, we’ve used those bathrooms, we’ve walked around those halls in our pajamas,” she said.

Katie Thalacker, a first-year student, said the third floor of Pioneer Hall, where she lives, is a close-knit community where she has always felt safe and at home. But now, Thalacker and her friend, Serafin, said they would think twice about wandering through the halls of the building alone at night.

The residents all said they were alarmed that the perpetrators might have followed someone in through a side door to access the building, known as tailgating, but said the practice is unavoidable.

Johnson said he and other students rarely give a second thought to letting a stranger in through a door they were entering and tailgating was inevitable.

As a student who has stood outside the Pioneer Hall doors, waiting for someone to let her in, Thalacker said she would feel rude not allowing someone to enter behind her. In light of this weekend’s incident, she said residents should be cautious and try to be more aware if someone trying to get in looks like they aren’t a student.

Further investigation required

University police Lt. Chuck Miner said Monday that there were no suspects. He said police were bringing the victim in to obtain more information, reviewing physical evidence and examining additional camera footage.

After the assault, police didn’t see the described perpetrators on four hours of camera footage near the main entrance, leading them to believe the men entered the through a side door.

“We’re going to see if there are any other cameras in the area that may be beneficial, and also go back a little further than the four hours in viewing the other footage,” he said.

Representatives from University Housing and Residential Life didn’t immediately return Daily interview requests.