Campus security and personal safety: Tragic addition

Addition:  From late Sunday on the NY Times online:

The six-day search for a missing Yale graduate student ended on Sunday with the discovery of a body in the wall of a university laboratory building where she had last been seen, New Haven police said.



If anyone comes to this blog because they are searching under the name “Annie Le,” let me say that I am still hoping she will be found safe.  If she isn’t, do be sure most women reading this blog will feel an almost personal  grief at reading about her.   The possibility of being aducted and losing one’s life, supposing that happened, is part of the imagination of many, many women now.  To the extent that the possibility haunts college campuses, many of us have seen at least flickers of its presence. 

Here is the latest NY Times news about Ms Le, the Yale doctoral student who was last seen, on video camera, entering a research building at Yale.  She has been missing since early this week.  Bloody clothes have been found hidden above ceiling tiles, but there’s no confirmation that there are related.

Annie Le was to be married today.

We might share here strategies about campus safety that might lessen the number of such crimes.  What in your experience are valuable features.  Have there been significant changes on your campus?  How were faculty or students able to get actions taken?  Are you now worried or frightened on campus or going to and from campus?

Any international comparisons or lessons would also be very interesting.

I’ll start off by saying that administrators have good reasons to be concerned about campus safety.  It’s pretty well believed that safety is a factor in enrollment, and most colleges and universities are concerned about that.

So let us know your thoughts, please.

7 thoughts on “Campus security and personal safety: Tragic addition

  1. I am at an urban campus notoriously perceived as unsafe. The perception is much worse than the reality and it is difficult to dislodge the myths. All universities are now required to file annual crime statistics. I chaired a campus safety commission and there are many things one can learn and can do. It is unproductive to foster an atmosphere of fear. Most campuses offer an array of safety options including self-defense classes, partners or patrols to walk students, faculty and staff to buildings and cars, crime awareness seminars, etc. I have taken advantage of these options. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to do so. There are also seminars for men and male students to encourage them to have greater awareness of issues of violence and date rape. There is a lot being done on these issues across various fronts. Needless to say we can still be victimized by those people who choose to do so. I saw with alarm some recent publications circulated to all faculty about “What do do if a student has a gun in class,” etc. Yes, it’s alarming, but read the pamphlet and be prepared. Talk with your students about their concerns. Get in touch with your local women’s advocacy group. Don’t foster the atmosphere of fear and passivity.

  2. Great! Thanks, Calypso. A quick thing that occurs to me: Some very unhappy graduate student was booby trapping scientific equipment; the situation was very unsafe. Cameras were installed, and the student was caught. I’m wondering if cameras in the halls of large scientific buildings at Yale might have helped, especially if there were notices about security equipment. If you are in a building where even in normal daylight hours almost all doors are closed, cameras might be something to ask for.

  3. This news is so sad and scary. Annie Le (the victim) wrote an article on avoiding/preventing campus violence and crime that was published in February, because she was concerned about campus safety. She made suggestions and offered that if you were smart/careful you could avoid becoming “a statistic.”

    I am so tired of the burden for not being raped, stalked or killed put on us as women. The lists of how to prevent all of this fall flat. The only worthwhile list I’ve seen circulate is this:

    I do want cameras, I do want security. I do want my safety taken seriously. But I hate getting targeted with all of the “how to not get raped or killed on campus” discourse after crimes like this, because the real answer is simple- don’t be a woman. That’s how it feels.

  4. Amanda, I completely agree. I think there’s another factor operating here. The only people we have much hope of changing is ourselves. So when an array of problems arise, we focus on what we can do.

    But we are not the problem. I think we do covertly add to the burden of the threat by looking at our own behavior. On the other hand, if the only one you have much chance of changing is yourself, what do you do?

    Somewhere it struck me that one of the worst things about abuse is that it leaves one with no good options. Maybe this is just such a situation.

    And I agree. It makes sense to feel one does not fit with the reality.

  5. Hi, JJ.

    I think it’s important to examine this issue in the same light as the Henry Louis Gates piece.

    Discourse is an “opaque power object,” so it’s hard for us to sometimes see what we’re actually saying. Transposing the circumstances can help.

    For example, women are the targets of the type of violence we’re talking about here (though LGBTQI students are also targeted.) When you look at the actual statistics and do the math, the number of women attacked per year, it is vastly larger than the lynchings that occurred during Reconstruction which we now have no trouble condemning as wrong and racially motivated. But think of the hegemonic oppression of telling/asking/expecting a black man in the south a century ago to look at his own behavior and not expect society to change. *That is what happened, and that’s what’s happening in the discussion around Gates to a degree.* But it’s ethically grotesque. So a people targeted by violence do have the double burden of yes, having to protect themselves in the moment from violence, but also from a discourse that normalizes that violence and holds us (the targets) responsible for it.

    I think there is no hope of ending this degree of violence if we don’t address it collectively. And, in terms of discourse, we are the problem. It isn’t “them.” It’s “us,” in terms of discourse. It’s all of us.

  6. Amanda, I’ll have to think about the details of what you’ve said, but let me be clear that I don’t think we’re the ones to blame, and I do think the discourse can reconfigure the victims as complicit with the criminals.

    I do not at this point know what much effective action about women in philosophy would be, though I hope we’ve done a little on some topics, such as at least making it clear how often women are not included. The safety of women is, if anything, much more difficult.

    The point I was making about Gates was in part that acting against the order, however vile it is, can get one into a lot of trouble with the people supposed to be your friends and co-sufferers. It is very hard to make a cake without breaking eggs, and it turns out there are egg defenders absolutely every where.

    At the same time, taking a stand is connected to the moral quality of one’s life, I do believe.

  7. Hello, again, JJ.

    I wasn’t saying we are to blame for the violent actions of murderers and rapists if we ourselves are not murderers and rapists. In a very real sense, Annie Le’s murderer is the only person responsible for his crime.

    I also was not talking about blame, but responsibility. And my focus was on the discourse about the violence, again, not the violence itself. However, in a broad social sense, I think the two are connected and reinforcing. We are complicit in the ways we construct the discourse, although we usually do not see the hegemonic ways our complicity is built. Invisibility is a tricky thing.

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