Campus / News / September 24, 2009

An untimely death raises relevant questions

The murder of Yale University graduate student Annie Le didn’t happen in a bad neighborhood. Nor did it happen late at night when she was by herself. Le’s murder occurred on an unsuspecting day in a science lab building on Yale’s campus.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15th, Annie Le was reported missing, and days later her body was found behind a wall of the same building where she was murdered. Le’s death is particularly disturbing given that her murder occurred in a building that is described as having “three levels of security,” as one New York Times article covering Le’s death reports. According to the New York Times, students needed “two swipes of a security card” to have access to the science lab building. Le’s death certainly raises prominent questions concerning campus security and the measures administrators can take to protect students.

Even though Knox and Yale differ considerably in size, Director of Campus Security John Schlaf said that it is necessary to “reevaluate everything as it relates to our personal safety.” Indeed, Annie Le’s murder affects college campuses everywhere, as both students and faculty wonder what it means to be safe. When asked about how Le’s death affects the safety of the Knox community, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Development Xavier Romano answered with a question of his own, “Where is the line between secure and confident?”

Perhaps distinguishing between secure and confident is manifest in examining how students and Campus Safety can maximize safety to help prevent a circumstance like Annie Le’s murder. It may seem easier for students to feel at ease since Knox is an intimate community where people are familiar with one another, but Romano cautions students to “follow their intuition and pay attention to their environment.”

Students also voiced their opinions in regard to Le’s death and the impact it has on them at Knox. “It does make me more aware of my surroundings,” sophomore Kate Heitcamp admitted.

Freshman Josh Gunter agreed. “It does make me more concerned about safety. It’s a highly relatable environment. But then again, something like that could happen anywhere”.

If a murder can occur in a supposedly highly secure facility, is there really anything anyone can do to prevent it? Professor of English Natania Rosenfeld pondered the same question, and concluded that, “If someone I worked with wanted to kill me…I don’t know how Campus Security could prevent it.”

However, Romano is quick to offer another alternative in addition to Campus Security, observing that students are a “resource for one another.” But this also begs a certain amount of trust for students to place in one another, and it may be too much to ask if the cost is another death like Annie Le’s. Avoiding a tragedy like the one that Yale experienced rests on people taking their own independent precautions, but also knowing when to call for help. If people in the Knox community uphold those actions, it will at least contribute to making Knox a safer place where people feel comfortable.

Lauren Greve

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