Unlawful entry into Fulbright Hall sparks student safety concerns

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Photographer

Students living in Fulbright Hall said they wish officials would have alerted them about an unlawful entry in the building earlier this month.

An unlawful entry into Fulbright Hall earlier this month rose security concerns among the building’s residents.

On Sept. 14 at about 1:40 p.m., Monee Rogers entered Fulbright Hall behind a student who allowed her access through the front entrance and entered a room. In interviews, more than 15 students who live in Fulbright said they generally feel safe in their hall but wish the University had alerted them about the entry closer to when the incident first happened instead of waiting about a week to email students.

The student whose room Rogers entered, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for her personal safety, said Rogers entered her unlocked room and asked to use the bathroom. She said Rogers, 61, told her that she had to use the bathroom or she would “pee on the floor.”

“She was wearing a dress so she moved to take her underwear off, so I sprinted and I banged on my RA’s door,” the resident said. “I got my RA and we got back to my room and she had closed the door on me and locked it.”

The resident said her resident adviser contacted GW Police Department officers, who asked Rogers why she entered the hall. The resident said Rogers claimed that Allah told her she “owned the building” and that she was “praying” to Allah.

“I’m working with them now to talk about different options to help fix this, and the only thing they could really give me was to be more vigilant,” the resident said.

Associate Vice President of Safety and Security Scott Burnotes said GWPD officers investigated the incident and found that a student allowed Rogers to enter through the hall’s front door, and Rogers made her way into an unlocked residence hall room. Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested the woman for unlawful entry, according to an MPD report.

“Students and parents initially raised concerns because people wrongly assumed that a door had been propped open or was not functioning correctly,” Burnotes said.

He said the crime was not the student’s fault, but officials are encouraging Fulbright residents to follow safety tips – like asking for a person’s student ID before holding the door for them or telling a visitor to sign a log if they do not have an ID – to reduce the chances of crime occurring.

“The University is working with resident advisers and staff to address any safety concerns and to continue to help students incorporate safety habits that will help ensure their safety in their residence halls,” Burnotes said.

More than 15 students living in Fulbright said they generally feel safe in the hall but should have been informed when the incident first occurred. Fulbright students received an email from their area coordinator notifying them of the incident and alerting them that a student access monitor would be stationed at the front of the hall moving forward.

Alicia Harris, an RA in Fulbright, said the incident seemed like a “one-off” occurrence, but she wishes that SAMs had been stationed at the hall since the beginning of the year.

“It’s nice that we have SAMs now,” she said. “I wish we had SAMs the entire time since we are on the very outer edge of campus, this close to the Metro and the rest of D.C.”

Julia Hagen, a freshman living in Fulbright, said students received an email about a week after the incident saying a SAM would be placed at the entrance to the hall 24/7 because of the unlawful entry, but that a monitor hasn’t been present the entire time.

A Hatchet analysis found earlier this year that several residence halls lack security more than 90 percent of the time. The University hired 50 percent more SAMs over the summer for this fall than it has in previous years.

Hagen said she and her roommates will start locking their door more regularly.

“It definitely makes us feel a little less safe because someone did get into the building and got into someone’s room, and we leave our door open a lot because our hall is very social,” she said.

Cordelia Scales, a freshman living in Fulbright, said she feels about as safe in her hall as she did before the incident occurred, but the unlawful entry caught her off guard because officials didn’t immediately notify students of the incident.

“I would have appreciated a text or something saying, ‘An attempted break in at Fulbright,’ instead of waiting a week for an email,” Scales said.

Aidan Lang, a freshman living in Fulbright, said he was in the lobby when the woman was arrested, and information about the arrest spread quickly over texts among the hall’s residents.

Lang said he has noticed many people holding the door open for people coming in behind them, the same way Rogers was able to enter the residence hall earlier this month.

“I had noticed other people letting other people in a lot and everyone just holds doors open for those going out and in, so that doesn’t seem very safe,” Lang said.

He said he was satisfied with GWPD’s response to the incident, because officers efficiently removed the person from the hall. Lang said he has noticed more GWPD officers in the Fulbright Hall lobby since the incident, and officers have ensured that all doors to the residence hall – except the main door – are locked.

GWPD officers are working with facilities’ employees to ensure that the door to Fulbright Hall’s basement is consistently locked, according to the email students received from the hall’s area coordinator.

“They showed up and got the person out,” Lang said. “I think asking much more of them would be asking them to be super-humans.”

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