January 17, 2019
A Campus Safety report reads: “Oct. 10: A female student reported being harassed by a non-affiliate male while studying in the Learning Commons. The non-affiliate male was admonished for trespassing and escorted out.”
I am the female student who reported this to Campus Safety. The description of the incident is accurate but incomplete. Here’s what happened: I was sitting in the library on the first floor and I felt someone’s eyes on me. A man who appeared to be in his late twenties started asking personal questions and even offered me drugs. Although I said I was busy, he continued talking and touched my shoulder. He called me a “bitch” and followed me when I left. The following day I reported him to the front desk and they called Campus Safety, who confirmed he was not affiliated with the school, even though he initially said he was a student here.
But I’m not the only one who has experience this type of harrassment.
A Santa Clara sophomore who wished to remain anonymous said she was followed throughout the library by a middle-aged man last year. He continued to pursue her outside of the library, and she ran to another building in an effort to get away. She did not report the incident.
A junior who will be identified as Sarah also said that she had experienced uncomfortable situations with older men while studying in the library.
She noted that since her first year on campus, she has noticed a man on the first floor who stares at female students’ legs. After bringing this to the attention of Campus Safety, Sarah said they found video footage of the accused man.
“They said they were unable to do anything because he was not making any gestures or comments and that the staring technically was not punishable,” she said.
Another junior who does not wish to dislose her name said that last school year a man who appeared to be in his thirties approached her on two separate occasions, claiming he had a vegetable delivery service. The conversation quickly turned from vegetables to him commenting on her physical appearance and insisting she give him her phone number. She did not report the incident.
These stories are only a few of the ones I received. Students are reluctant to report harassment because it doesn’t result in any action. Cases that are reported often lead nowhere. In my case after reporting the incident, Campus Safety told me the man would be arrested if he was ever caught on campus again. They gave me the option to file a police report but I was already embarrassed and overwhelmed by the situation.
When I asked one of the victims why she didn’t report her incident, she said she “didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.” About three weeks after my incident, on Nov. 2, I met with University Librarian Jennifer Nutefall. When asked to recall harassment she was aware of during her six years at the university, she said only one specific incident—mine— stood out. “We get very few incidents of members of the public or non-affiliates having any sort of interaction with our student population.”
Then three days after my meeting with Nutefall this incident was reported by Campus Safety.
“Nov. 5: A non-affiliate male was reported masturbating on the third floor of the Learning Commons. Campus Safety was able to locate him and escorted him out of the building.”
I felt Campus Safety took my complaint seriously but there is only so much they can do. It is the library’s responsibility to protect students from these incidents.
According to the Santa Clara website, when the Learning Commons is open between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., access is limited to Santa Clara faculty, students and staff with an ACCESS card. Visitors without Santa Clara identification ware asked to leave. However, there is no check-in system to ensure that people entering the library are affiliated with the school.
“We do receive government documents, so we are a government depository, and as a requirement of that to be open for people to view those documents,” Nutefall said, adding that keeping the library open to the public “is the type of institution we are, being a Jesuit social justice focused institution.”
But this leaves me wondering why our university can’t serve both the public and keep its own community reasonably protected. Other Jesuit institutions are able to do this. For instance, Georgetown University also provides public access but their website says they require that visitors show a government-issued photo ID to the security desk guard and sign in each time they enter the library. Loyola University of Chicago’s library website says members of the university must present a current Loyola ID at the entrance to the library, and are encouraged to wear them while visiting.
“We are very lean on staffing, so we would need to position someone right at the front entrance, and either have some sort of swipe card system, or we would need a complete change,” Nutefall said. “I think it is impractical.”
What baffles me is that between tuition and room and board, it costs roughly about a quarter of a million dollars to attend Santa Clara for four years. I just don’t understand how there can’t be funds allocated to set up simple protocols like a sign-in desk that would keep visitors accountable who use our facilities.
After moving across the country from Virginia, I am often asked why I chose Santa Clara. The reason is because I value the Jesuit ideals centered around social justice and equality.
This issue of library safety illustrates the university’s failure to reconcile the actual student experience with the image that they have so successfully promoted. By refusing to acknowledge and resolve an identified problem of sexual harassment on our campus, the administration is denying full access to safety for its students. It is failing to live up to one of the core Jesuit values, Cura Personalis, Latin for “care for the whole person.”
Sasha Todd is an ethnic studies major and news reporter.