Leitner: Off campus, unprotected

Thinking about moving off campus? Consider your options carefully.

I live in Orleton Court, a building owned by Yale but operated and managed by Elm Campus Partners. After living on campus for three years I was excited for the chance to move into my own space across the street from Pierson. While living on the first floor was a concern of my parents, I wasn’t bothered by the idea, considering I had always been the annoying kid in my suite who fastidiously locked the door.

But on Saturday night my roommate heard bumping and shuffling in the common room. The next moment a man in his mid-40s burst through her bedroom door. After watching her retreat onto her bed and begin shrieking for help, banging on the window and calling to those passing by on the street, he turned and ran out of the front door.

He broke into our room by climbing through the living room window, which was cracked to let some air into our stuffy apartment. The windows are designed with stoppers, allowing them to be securely opened no more than a few inches. But when I took residency in September, six of the 10 sets of window stoppers were missing. My roommate and I together wrote four e-mail messages to Elm Campus to request repairs.

But no one came for months, despite our repeated pleas. It took an attempted assault to get a maintenance crew on site to inspect the situation. They showed up less than 24 hours later.

This is just one of countless problems that close friends of mine and I have had with Elm Campus. Just last month a friend was denied entry to her building by a faulty swipe card reader. She called Elm Campus for assistance, and while she stood alone on the street at 1 a.m. the night receptionist asked her if she had been evicted. She then told my friend that she wasn’t “doing it right.” After 15 minutes and two more calls for help, she gave up and woke up a neighbor who came down and let her in.

New Haven is not the most desirable place to be a lone woman, in the middle of the night, locked out of her building.

Most of the buildings surrounding central campus are owned by the University and managed by Elm Campus. By failing to provide a secure environment for students, Elm Campus undermines Yale’s mission to offer safety to the members of the community.

We are encouraged to use blue phones to call the security escort service and adhere to the mantra “security is everyone’s responsibility.” It is obvious that the University puts great thought into ensuring the safety of its affiliates and the tranquility of its courtyards. A large portion of the tour guide presentation consists of assurances to nervous parents that Yale is doing everything in its power to keep students shielded from harm. But infinitely secure streets are meaningless if Yale (or those contracted by Yale) can’t provide a sense of well-being in places of residence.

The other half of the tour guide spiel expounds on Yale’s mission to harmonize with the greater New Haven community. Our open campus is unique in its level of interaction with its environment. Libraries open to the public, programs targeting New Haven public schools and dozens of other initiatives have continued to strengthen our relationship with the city.

By creating a climate in which breaches of security occur, Elm Campus threatens that balance the University seeks to uphold. A fundamental requirement of harmony between students and New Haven residents is a sense of trust on both sides. Elm Campus’s slack standards have contributed to a recent increase in incidents. Such occurrences result in more e-mails from Chief Perrotti and an ensuing atmosphere of fear and distrust.

Ultimately, by owning and offering off-campus residences, the University implies that we are entitled to the same security as those living on campus. I write my rent check to Yale with the expectation of being afforded the security and subsequent peace of mind I have enjoyed the past three years. It is high time the University and its subcontractors take responsibility for their buildings — both those that are enclosed by gated walls and those that are not.

Evan Leitner is a senior in Pierson College.

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