Peeping incidents under investigation by campus safety

Decorative signage adorns Occidental College's Haines Hall on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Victoria Winter/The Occidental.

Two students reported separate incidents, Oct. 4 and Nov. 2, of an unknown suspect attempting to photograph them while they were showering in Haines Hall. Campus Safety and Residental Education and Housing Services (REHS) shared news of both events with the Occidental community via email within 48 hours. A community meeting Nov. 6 in Haines Hall explained the incidents in greater detail, looking to prevent further occurrences. Among those in attendance were Director of Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) Chad Myers, Head of Campus Safety Rick Tanksley, Survivor Advocate Marianne Frapwell, and Title IX coordinator Jennifer Broomfield. During the meeting, a female student mentioned a third, previously unreported incident in which someone attempted to peer at her through the cracks of a shower stall; this incident did not involve photographing. The Title IX Office followed up with the student and is continuing to investigate that incident as well, according to Tanksley.

In an email, Myers said that REHS and Campus Security are treating the matter with great care.

“This is a serious matter—as we pointed out in those messages to Haines, in California invading someone’s privacy by recording or “peeping” at someone who is in a situation where they expect privacy–such as in a dressing room or bathroom–can be a criminal offense, in addition to being a violation of the College’s Sexual Misconduct policy,” Myers said via email.

Under California state law, an act of sexual voyeurism is a misdemeanor and can entail up to six months jail time. It is also prohibited by Occidental’s sexual misconduct policy and is classified as sexual exploitation. According to the policy, a review board will analyze the case and decide what sanctions are fit for the suspect if they are apprehended. Consequences can range from a warning to expulsion and restitution.

Myers and Tanksley sent out safety precautions after the incidents to help prevent further peeping incidents and to ensure the safety of community members. In an email sent out to the student body Nov. 3, Myers said to not let strangers into residence halls, to not prop doors open, to stay responsible for guests and to report any odd occurrences or suspicious individuals. Myers said via email to The Occidental Nov. 6 that safety practices are important during times like these, and that community safety is a collective effort.

Occidental’s Residential Education & Housing Service Office has printed privacy expectation signage in Haines Hall’s all-gender bathrooms at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Victoria Winter/The Occidental

Layal Bata (sophomore), a residential advisor (RA) in Haines Hall, said that she was on duty the night of the second disorderly conduct and was responsible for reporting the incident to Campus Safety.

“I was actually on duty when the most recent incident happened, so I got the call,” Bata said. “I got the call from the resident, I sat down with her and she told me what happened. I called campus police and we filed a report together, then we talked some more and we filed a Title IX report together.”

Since the first incident, shower curtains have been installed in some showers of Haines, according to Ariadne Makridakis (junior), another Haines RA. According to Haines resident Andrea Yuen (sophomore), this solves the problem of surveillance through the cracks of the stall, but it does not hinder someone from filming or photographing a person from beneath the stall in the way the perpetrator has done.

“I also would like to see if the bathrooms could just not have the extra space between the floor and the door, because I feel like if they just got rid of that, we wouldn’t have these peeping incidents,” said Yuen.

Yuen said that the incident has not made her feel unsafe, but has heightened her sense of awareness when in the showers.

The view from inside a shower stall in one of the all-gender bathrooms at Haines Hall in Occidental College in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Victoria Winter/The Occidental

According to multiple residents who attended the community meeting, other proposed solutions included requiring key card access on the bathroom doors to track entries and to prevent non-residents from entering the shower area. Haines RA Jason Yu (sophomore) said some proposed that RAs patrol the halls more often.

Bata said that she has tried to avoid showering by herself as a measure of protection.

“I usually try to buddy up with somebody and shower at the same time, because all of the incidents have been when somebody has been alone in a bathroom,” Bata said. “I know of a couple people who wash their hair in the sink in their room.”

According to Bata, there is a lot of unrest within the community, though she said she feels that the community is angry more than anything. Makridakis said that she is angry at the perpetrator, especially since she feels that the incidents have made her residents feel less safe.

“As a resident, I wouldn’t say [the incident] has made me scared, but it’s uncomfortable and it’s gross. It’s just straight up gross, and it makes me angry. I want to come to my room and my res hall and have a safe space where I am comfortable, and to think that when I want to do something as simple as shower, that there’s a possibility that someone might come peep on me is not a comforting thought at all,” Makridakis said. “I just want it to be known that as an RA, that I do not tolerate these behaviors at all, and if someone comes to me regarding this, I would be more than happy to help them with the process.”