Levin addresses shaken medical school community

At a meeting to reflect on the murder of Annie Le GRD ’13 held Monday afternoon at the Yale School of Medicine, several members of the medical school community made it clear that they no longer feel safe on campus.

University President Richard Levin addressed a tense audience of roughly 550 students and faculty gathered at the Sterling Hall of Medicine, beginning by reiterating his condolences to Annie Le’s family and loved ones. When he opened the floor to questions from the community, concerns about safety and security quickly became the focus of discussion.

Discussing the range of emotions Le’s death has provoked, Chief Psychiatrist Lorraine Siggins, who spoke after Levin, urged listeners to draw on each other for strength.

“Sadness, loss, anger and distress can make us more irritable and brittle in a time when we should be supportive of each other,” she said.

Levin said he regrets the slow relay of information about developments in the case to the Yale community this past week, calling it a flaw in the University’s handling of the situation thus far. He said the e-mail he wrote to faculty and staff when Le’s body was discovered in the Amistad building Sunday night was sent as soon as it was possible to share the news without impeding the ongoing investigation.

Levin announced there will be a community meeting in Amistad the morning it opens. Although some “essential” researchers will return to Amistad tomorrow to continue their work, officials have not decided when the building will open up to the general public, he added.

Many among the audience spend their days in and around the Amistad Building, and some had even met or worked with Le. Several people raised specific concerns about their safety on the medical school campus, saying they had always felt uncomfortable walking the often-deserted streets between various research facilities and office centers, and now were more nervous than ever.

One woman earned nods of agreement from other audience members when she asked what could be done for scientists who work with animals, and are required to transport their subjects from building to building using underground culverts instead of coming up to street level.

“They’re these surreal, artificial, sci-fi tunnels,” she said, adding that these subways are usually empty.

The audience applauded another woman who brought up the lack of cell phone service in basement research facilities, many of which also do not have landline telephones. Previously a nuisance, this fact is unsettling now that Le’s body has been discovered in a basement, she said.

In response to these fears, Levin and Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the University has already increased security on campus in light of recent events. Officials are already looking into the possibility of improving cell phone reception or installing land line phones in areas with intermittent cell phone service, and are considering raising the presence of security personnel in a variety of areas and installing surveillance cameras in places that are deemed high-risk, Levin said.

Highsmith and Levin urged the audience to take advantage of resources that Yalies on central campus are aware of but do not always use: the blue phones and the 2Walk escort service. But Levin also warned against taking too many security measures.

“We don’t want to lock every door and let the social life of the school deteriorate,” he said. “What happened in Amistad was, in a certain sense, not preventable. No amount of hardware can overcome the darkness of the human soul when an evil person decides to do a terrible thing.”

Laurie Feldman, a project manager at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, works two blocks from the Amistad building. She said she has always felt nervous walking the streets near her office, and said she was surprised to hear Le’s death took place in a Yale building, in a place she would have considered safe.

Jeremy Jacox MED ’15 GRD ’15 said the “freak” occurrence of Le’s murder does not change how he feels about his safety in New Haven, pointing out that there are bad people everywhere.

“This shouldn’t make us feel less safe at Yale than any other campus,” he said. “It could have been Harvard or CalTech. It could have been anywhere.”

The meeting was originally scheduled to take place at the Hope Memorial Building, but was moved to the Harkness Auditorium to accommodate the unanticipated level of interest. Even still, the auditorium, which can house over 520 people, was filled well past capacity.

Comments

  • Nonyalie

    When I came to New Haven in an effort to visit a small trolley museum at East Haven, I caught quite a few complaints from my parents because they reckoned New Haven to be unsafe. I therefore planned on going to the Yale campus in case anything should go wrong, believing that to be the safest part of town. After this Annie Le story erupted, I’m not sure if it’s safe or unsafe, but I never had a problem while in the area.

  • Yale Grad

    We know nothing about the killer at this point, since we are only receiving bits and pieces of information. However, it has been suggested that this was a person who worked in the Amistad building. Therefore, this is an issue of internal security and what can be done (with additional humans, cameras, phones and other safety measures) to ensure the safety of those within the Medical Campus and the campus at large from threats within the confines of campus buildings.

    However, New Haven is not a safe city, despite it being the home of Yale (some would say in part because of Yale and its relationship to the city). The medical school is in a particularly dangerous area. In my own time on campus, I have had friends assaulted, shot at, held at gunpoint in their homes and back yards, and chased and/or robbed multiple times. A man even tried to follow us into our home when we lived in a very safe part of town. I have called security for suspicious activity that turned out to be pre-teens with weapons, stalking the stairs of the building I worked in, right in the center of campus. The campus has tried to step up security over time, with street phones and security escorts, and hopefully with some additional monitoring of the streets (though that has not been in evidence). Granted it is difficult to keep up with what New Haven and some from Hartford who roam New Haven on the weekends can dish out. Weapons are rampant among teenagers and pre-teens, as illegal guns can be had for the price of tennis shoes. There was a gun collection initiative in New Haven recently, in which high-school students were encouraged with incentives to turn in their guns, because it had become such a serious problem.

    On the other hand, I know for a fact Yale can do better. Yale was visibly more safe, and the streets unusually free of crime when in the fall of 2003 their own staff went on strike. Out of fear of retaliation by their own employees, Yale heightened security all over campus, and in every building. Many is the time since those weeks in 2003 when I wished that Yale cared as much about the safety of its students as it did about the security of its physical properties. They have slowly been buying up the whole city, and yet they act as though they are an entity apart from-and that functions despite the problems of-the City of New Haven. This is a serious problem they must address for the safety of their students faculty and staff which number in the tens of thousands.

  • Yale ’07

    I think the administration should beef up security by placing porters at the entrances to the colleges, which is how it used to be. I have observed many undergrads keep a gate open for a clearly questionable person to follow. It is too much to expect them to do otherwise. I am sure I did it myself against my better judgment.

  • Anna

    The basements on Science Hill are possibly even less secure than at the medical school. We don’t necessarily have animal research facilities but we still have expensive equipment, chemicals, specimens and biological agents sitting around. Staff here have been requesting better access control, cell phone reception and better procedures for identifying “legitimate” tradesmen/utilities people for years. With all the construction going on at the moment, tradespeople walk in and out like they own the place, some times without even knocking or identifying themselves before they even walk in to a room! A blue phone style system in all basements would give many people peace of mind.

  • Hollyhock

    It is not accurate to say this crime could have appeared anywhere. Many campuses have greater security in place, cell phone access on every square inch of campus, and run background checks on all employees, and also have policies which require students to work in pairs, etc., so a student does not end up alone in an isolated area of campus, without cell phone use, without supervision. Shame on Yale University. Big hat, no cattle. And a reputation that died a decade ago.

  • Dryer Vent Cleaning

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  • Helen Li

    I see President Levin is still muttering about the “darkness of the human soul” rather than looking at the lack of procedures to address complaints about employees who exhibited a “bullying” and “angry” attitude towards research students. He still has not addressed the core question of how Clarks’ entire under-educated family happened to be working in the same lab. Surely, it encouraged a violent and insecure young man to develop a proprietary and territorial stance and his behavior would be indulged and protected by his family. I am not sure whether all this talk of “work place violence” to going. It certainly is prejudicing the case and Levin should work behind the scene if he thinks there are needs to increase security at this particular moment. Finally, for the nth time, Annie’s death if not any old “work place violence.” It is a cruel, barbaric slaying of a wonderful young women of huge promise and who weighed ninety pounds and stood at four feet eleven inches. Her personal tragedy should not be slapped with a cold “admistrative label” of “work place violence.” It is offensive, disrespectful and prejudicial to the case. I feel that Levin is more concerned about Yale’s image than the victim. Other contributors have enlightened me about the actual need for beef-up security on Yale campus and that more could be done. I welcome all that but please Levin, don’t hijack Annie’s tragedy, leave that to her family.