On the Saturday of Halloween weekend, a Yale student was assaulted in Morse College, sparking questions about security on the edge of campus.
That night, sophomore girls in a suite in the Morse basement noticed a young man in the moat directly outside of their window who appeared as though he needed assistance. When Jonathan Simonds ’17 — another Morse student visiting the suite — opened the window to check on the person outside, the stranger tried to forcibly push his way into the suite.
Simonds said that, when he tried to prevent the man entering the suite, the stranger fought back, punching his head. After the assault, the man fled the scene before police arrived, leaving Simonds with a cut that required five stitches. Police have not yet found the suspect.
“That person could have been out there for any number of reasons,” Simonds said. “The number of good reasons for a person to be in a ditch outside their suite was not high.”
Simonds said that, although he and the residents in the suite thought that the man had fallen into the moat accidentally, he appeared unscathed. Because the area surrounding the moat is surrounded by bushes, the assailant would not have been there unless he were either very determined or incapacitated, Simonds added.
Later that night, police asked Simonds and members of the suite to identify a man who matched the suspect’s description. Simonds said that the man police were holding was not his assailant. He has not been contacted since to identify another suspect.
That weekend did not mark the first time members of that particular Morse suite had experienced issues with strangers intruding, according to suite resident Libby Dimenstein ’17. Dimenstein said that in addition to people urinating onto their windows every weekend, an intoxicated, non-Yale student had wandered into their suite during one weekend earlier in the semester and refused to leave until he used the bathroom.
“I’m fine with having to be on my guard on campus, but when you’re in your suite you want to be at ease,” said suite member Natalie Warren ’17. “The problem is that it’s in the residential college.”
Dimenstein said that on the Monday following the assault, she and her suitemates met with their master Amy Hungerford and dean Joel Silverman to address their concerns. At the meeting, the Morse students requested a larger security presence outside of Morse on weekends and inquired about the possibility of only allowing men to live in the suite in the future. The students said they thought there would be fewer instances of guys attempting to enter the suite if they looked in the window and saw other guys.
Security officers patrol the colleges regularly, but additional patrols are assigned in response to particular trends or events, Yale Police Department Administrative Lieutenant Von Narcisse said in an email.
Hungerford said that upon her request, YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins increased patrols in the area. She added that she has also contacted architects to find a solution that makes the perimeter of Morse less susceptible to public urination, a longstanding problem for the college.
Although the suite’s first request was addressed quickly, Hungerford said that restricting girls from living in the basement is a change unlikely to happen in the near future.
“Everyone has different cultural and social norms about privacy and they’re real,” Hungerford said. “While you don’t want to be sexist, you need to think about gender culturally.”
Katherine Bollag ’16 — who lived in the basement suite as a sophomore — said that limiting the basement to only men could reduce future instances of male intruders attempting to gain access through the windows.
However, Philile Shongwe ’16, another previous resident of the basement suite, said that turning the basement into a “boys only” suite is not necessarily the solution to improving safety in the college.
“It’s somewhat discriminatory,” Shongwe said. “The basement can be safe if people take the initiative to take care of themselves.”
While Morse residents living in the basement last year did not experience issues with intruders, residents above them did experience robberies, Shongwe said.
Morse students interviewed said security in the college has room for improvement, but Hungerford underscored the need for residents to take responsible steps to protect themselves. While she admitted that public drunkenness around the college is inevitable due to its proximity to Toad’s Place, she stressed students could make a more concerted effort to keep doors locked throughout the college.
In the summer of 2007, Yale College was struck with a series of thefts from Morse College rooms, thefts of computers from the Yale College Dean’s Office and approximately 10 street robberies targeting Yale students and affiliates.