by RIKKILYNN SHIELDS, Editor
A group students said they were disappointed in Manhattan College’s Public Safety office on Oct. 15, when they used an on-campus blue light to call for help while being followed at almost midnight.
“My friends and I were walking home from McDonald’s on Broadway to one of our friend’s apartments on [West] 236th Street. On our way, we noticed a man in a black hoodie walking rapidly behind us. He followed us to the apartment. We quickly entered the apartment building,” Samantha Monfils said. “After approximately an hour and a half passed, we left the apartment to walk back to our dormitory on campus. The same man was on the other side of the street, and started to follow us again. Terrified for our safety, we ran to the Kelly Commons Building and pressed the button at the blue light to get help.”
Monfils said one of the most traumatic parts of the ordeal was the reaction of public safety officers when they arrived on scene. Monfils said the officers that appeared after they rang the bell seemed more frustrated than concerned for her and her friends.
“I am astonished at how poorly Public Safety addressed the situation. When we called for help, the person on the line was helpful; rightfully so, they asked for our location and stayed on the line with us until someone came and got us. Here, it took approximately five minutes for someone to arrive,” she said. “Upon arrival, Public Safety personnel proceeded to engage in what felt like an interrogation. They asked for our names, ID numbers, what we were doing, and what the man looked like. While asking such questions is part of the process to assess threat and safety, not once were we asked whether we were okay or not. We simply wanted to get out of the area and be taken back to our dorm room safely.”
Monfils said one of the public safety officers went to look for the man who was following the students, to no avail. When he came back though, Monfils said he started asking her and her friends about why they were out so late.
“When the second Public Safety officer returned, he reported to not have seen anyone. It was here that we were then asked about whether or not we were coming back from the frat house,” she said. “Frankly, we were made to feel as if we were the ones who caused the situation we were in by being out late at night, i.e. victim-blaming, and that we were being an inconvenience to the Public Safety officers.”
Another student involved, Lauren Alexander, said the interaction with Public Safety made them feel like they were at fault for being followed. After an almost 20-minute investigation by the officers, the students were allowed to get in a Public Safety and were taken back to their residence halls.
“It was almost inhuman, like they were reading from a script. I felt like it was my fault or like I made a mistake by calling them,” she said. “We were all hesitant to hit the blue light and we shouldn’t have been. This should be a reliable option for anyone who feels uncomfortable.”
The Public Safety office has not responded to a request for comment.