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Students report feeling unsafe after 3 September bathroom break-ins

During the past month, SAFE-U alerts reported inappropriate incidents in the bathrooms at Middlebrook, Bailey and Smith halls.
Image by Eleanor King
The first two September incidents occurred at Smith and Middlebrook halls. A third incident in September took place at Bailey Hall, the investigation of which has just been closed.

SAFE-U alerts went out to University of Minnesota students on Sept. 9 and Sept. 15 reporting incidents involving indecent conduct in a bathroom in Middlebrook Hall, the residential hall on West Bank, and a bathroom in Smith Hall, an academic building on East Bank.

On Sept. 23, another SAFE-U alert reported a male suspect tried to look into a bathroom stall at Bailey Hall, the residential hall on the St. Paul campus. Students reported feeling uneasy about the incidents, citing a lack of security at residence halls despite the recent push for more safety on and around campus.

In email statements to the Minnesota Daily, Susan Stubblefield, interim director of Housing & Residential Life (HRL), and Matt Kramer, interim vice president for University Services, advised students not to prop doors open in locked University buildings.

“Even when done with the best intentions, holding doors open for strangers, propping doors open or leaving doors ajar creates security challenges,” Stubblefield said.

Kramer said safety is one of the University’s top priorities, and they will continue to ensure that members of the campus community feel safe inside campus buildings.

Jake Ricker, public relations director for the University, said the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) is looking into these incidents and cannot comment until the investigations are closed.

Last year, the UMPD reported similarly inappropriate incidents in bathrooms in other residential halls: Frontier Hall, Comstock Hall and Territorial Hall. The Minneapolis Police Department arrested and charged a man for breaking into Frontier and Comstock in February.

First-year student and Middlebrook Hall resident Carmen Pasquerella said she was not surprised when she received the SAFE-U alert about the September Middlebrook Hall incident.

“The security at the campus dorms are slim to none, and you can easily access any building without having a U Card,” Pasquerella said. “My roommate and I were initially nervous for our safety because, as women, we are already targeted on campus for crimes like this.”

Pasquerella said some of her friends in Middlebrook have had friends stand outside of the showers to help make those showering feel more comfortable in shared bathrooms.

First-year student and Middlebrook resident Anne Shelleny said security on campus needs improvement, especially in the dorms.

“The U should enforce better security at the entrances of the dorms by making everyone show their U Cards at the front desk and having guests check into the front desk,” Shelleny said. “They should also better educate the CAs on monitoring the halls during the night to make sure no one suspicious is just walking around the halls.”

In May, HRL announced plans to add locks over the summer to the outside of the bathrooms in Frontier, Centennial, Territorial, Pioneer, Comstock, Bailey and 17th Avenue halls. However, this project has yet to be completed.

“Supply chain disruptions have delayed installation in our buildings, but this work will be completed as soon as possible,” Stubblefield said.

Daniel Tobias, infrastructure committee director for the Undergraduate Student Government, wrote part of the resolution to add the bathroom locks. He said he was frustrated “by the lack of progress” by HRL.

“Until HRL can get this locks project off the ground, all we can do with that collective frustration is work together to develop additional residence hall security measures that are both feasible for HRL and Facilities Management and meaningful to students,” Tobias said.

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