Every day, the people who work in the Yale research building at 10 Amistad St. pass the security guards now stationed on every street corner and at every point of entry to the building. They must also scan their Yale IDs to gain access at any time of day. They find the heightened security presence reassuring, but it is also a reminder of the tragedy that still hangs over the building.
Exactly four months after investigators found the body of Annie Le GRD ’13 in the basement of 10 Amistad St., feelings of fear and uneasiness for those working in the building have finally begun to subside, owing, at least in part, to these new security protocols. Six workers interviewed said that, immediately after law enforcement officials concluded their search and unsealed the Amistad building, it was strange to return to their daily lives knowing what had occurred in the same facility only days earlier. At the same time, interviews with 25 people at the building suggest that increased security measures and an examination of workplace policies has increased communication among the building’s departments and helped employees to regain a sense of normalcy.
“For about a month after it happened, it was a really bizarre feeling coming [to the Amistad building] every day,” said Xing Chang, a post-doctoral associate in immunobiology.
Upon returning to the building, employees of the research facility encountered a variety of increased security precautions. Before Le’s murder, employees and students needed Yale ID cards to gain access to the building only after business hours. Now, they must scan them at all times of day. Security officers guard the corners of nearby intersections, the main entrance of the building, and the entry and exit to the adjoining parking garage.
The changes to the Amistad building’s security came as a result of suggestions and requests from employees working there and resemble systems already in place in other buildings around the medical school campus, said University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees campus security.
“There are many buildings in the medical area that require card key access all the time, and have for quite a while,” she said in an e-mail. “The staff who work in Amistad felt that would be a helpful measure to take there, as well.”
But the increased security measures do not come at the cost of slowing or interfering with the four medical research departments inside of the Amistad building, said Haifan Lin, the director of Yale Stem Cell Research. If anything, it has helped to unite the building’s occupants.
“Yale Security has done a great job making everyone who works here feel safe and normal again,” Lin said.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said new building-wide meetings have helped to integrate the Animal Resource Center, located in the basement of the Amistad building, with the other three research departments that operate above ground. Representatives of YARC now participate in interdepartmental meetings in which they previously were not represented.
In addition, the administration has implemented a number of new measures to ensure a safe working environment not only at the Amistad building and medical school campus, but all across the University. Shuttles now run more frequently, new employees undergo more thorough background checks, and administrators have updated Yale’s official policy on workplace violence.
According to employees interviewed, all of these steps have helped to minimize damage to the working environment inside of 10 Amistad St. and keep people comfortable going about their day-to-day tasks.
One employee — who asked to remain anonymous because he was once friendly with Raymond Clark III, the lab technician accused of Le’s murder — said people do not fear working there because it was a “freak incident” that does not indicate any larger security problem.
But beyond the benefits gained from an examination of campus security measures, Lin said the community of people who work at 10 Amistad St. has learned important lessons.
“The bottom line is that what happened in September only makes us cherish all the more that which we have together,” he said.