Thu 1 Dec 2005
One semester while I was at Williams, a person who would sneak into women’s rooms at night and watch them sleep. Very creepy. I believe the perp was eventually caught (and was a non-student resident of Williamstown — but my memory could be faulty).
It appears that last year Middlebury experienced a similar problem.
The Walker case originated in a series of incidents last winter in which male students reported waking up in the middle of the night in their dormitory rooms and finding a college-age black male staring at them, and then quickly leaving. The incidents sparked numerous campus rumors and commentary — some of which struck black students as racist. Walker became involved when there was another incident in which a student reported waking up and finding a black male student in his room. Unlike the other incidents, this intruder said that he thought he was in the room of a friend (a room swap meant that someone else had lived there just a few weeks prior).
Adding race to the equation makes the situation all the more explosive. Unfortunately, the case was not cut and dried:
The student in the last incident was inebriated when he woke up, and he subsequently identified three photographs of black male students who he thought might have been the middle-of-the-night visitor, but all of them ended up having been out of town. A few weeks later, he ran into Walker and identified him as the intruder.
Following further investigation, Walker was charged with being the intruder in the incidents, but from the start, questions were raised about the evidence. Those students whose rooms had been entered earlier said they couldn’t definitively identify him. And Walker differed in some key ways from the description the last student had given at the time of the incident — Walker, for example, does not have an African accent and some of his physical features also differ.
The accused student was suspended indefinitely and did not graduate. Not surprisingly the case went to court. The judge ruled that Middlebury was within its rights, but criticized Middlebury’s hearing process.
A few questions:
1) Middlebury has only 300 more students than Williams. How could a student serial peeper remain anonymous in such a small community? Wouldn’t someone see the culprit walking down the hallway? Moreover, the peeper was black and there aren’t that many black students at Middlebury. This fact should narrow the population considerably.
2) What constitutes proof in these type of hearings? A drunk witness in a dark room who misidentifies the defendant three times is not exactly air tight. Beyond a reasonable doubt is clearly not the standard. Does anyone know what is the standard in college cases?
3) How common is this type of behavior?
4) Why don’t students lock their doors? Now, I’ll admit that I seldom locked my door when I was an undergrad, but I figured kids today would be savvier. It might have been a cultural thing; most of the New Yorkers I knew always locked their doors. I’m not sure how many students at Notre Dame lock their doors. I know they often fail to lock up their bicycles (which is kinda cool that a school of 8,000 doesn’t have a substantial bicycle theft problem when locks are optional).
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