March 12, 2023

WEIRENS | Cornell’s Silence on Crime

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Cornell is normally a very safe campus. Students walk home alone at night en masse, save spots in dining halls with their bags and leave their doors unlocked. Save for the usual random petty crime common to a college campus, there’s rarely any issues. However, new developments in the past few weeks have emerged, most of which Cornell has outright ignored and neglected to inform their student body of. 

It began with the mass credit card fraud. Everyone I know who bought tickets to the latest Colgate hockey game and fashion show ended up getting their card information stolen. I would estimate that hundreds of students, if not more, were victimized. Some people discovered the charges early, while far more lived in ignorance while their savings were liquidated. It wouldn’t have cost Cornell any money or effort to inform their students. Why didn’t Cornell take responsibility for the technology error present in their systems that resulted in a major security breach? The reasoning for their silence is unclear, but I find it dishonest and dishonorable. 

In another case of Cornell remaining silent during well-known happenings of student-targeted crime, Olin library is currently plagued by a random man who roams study spaces screaming, swearing at and harassing students trying to study. He’s been doing this for several weeks and is politely escorted out each time only to return time and time again. Another incident regarding libraries was brought to my attention through the student messaging app Sidechat —  on March 5th, a student was chased from Ho Plaza into the Cocktail Lounge by a deranged man. Of course, none of this is confirmed through any official campus source, but it is well known throughout the student body. That being said, I don’t want to treat these rumors as facts, but rather express disappointment that what should be easily accessible facts continues to spread only via rumors. 

Cornell also neglected to notify students of an individual who was hiding in a student’s room in the freshman dorm, Court-Kay-Bauer Hall. The student woke up from their nap to a stranger underneath their bed. Cornell sent out a newsletter about the incident only to members of the Court-Kay-Bauer community, neglecting to post anything on crime announcements, or even email the other freshman and sophomore residents of North Campus. 

All of the aforementioned incidents have had a downright creepy element to them, and the lack of communication has only added to the mystery. A simple scroll through the crime log exposes Cornell’s poor communication, although I did find a saddening report of “two stolen guinea pigs,” from the Hans Bethe House on West Campus from last month. Even if these events are outside the jurisdiction or docket of the Cornell Police Department, the Cornell administration should at least make their students aware. 

Furthermore, if the administration feels inclined to take a stand to actively improve campus security, there are some simple developments that can be made. For example, the majority of buildings on the Arts Quad are open 24/7, year round. Anybody from anywhere can walk into these buildings and do pretty much as they please. Although it certainly is convenient to have everything open constantly, there’s significant potential for serious problems. I think more buildings need to have keycard scanners at the door, which would keep the buildings open for students, staff, professors and people who are supposed to be there, while keeping people who aren’t supposed to be there out. There are also several dorms that could do with additional keycard scanners at stairwell and elevator checkpoints. It’s remarkably easy to break into any room on North or West Campus unless you live in Ganędagǫ, Toni Morrision or the three brand-new dorms built on North — and even in the new dorms, it’s still very possible, of course. 

I also think that the Cornell administration needs to alert their students of relevant safety issues in a timelier manner. The credit card issue alone cost several people I know significant sums of money and time due to them being unaware of an issue Cornell was both fully aware of and helped create. I believe that, in comparison to other University projects, these are low cost and low maintenance changes that can have major payoffs in terms of student safety. 

Of course, these reports are hardly anything compared to crime at colleges in major cities. However, I believe we shouldn’t hold Cornell to lower standards. We should hold Cornell to the highest standards, especially when it comes to safety. We pay too much to do otherwise. Cornell has the money to prioritize student safety, so why don’t they? 

Aurora Weirens is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Northern Light runs alternate Sundays this semester.