On Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9:15 a.m., Springfield College Department of Public Safety and Student Affairs received notice of a reported sexual assault that occurred early Wednesday morning in Abbey-Appleton Hall. Multiple residents of the hall have said that the assault occurred in the kitchen of the third floor. According to a resident, the kitchen had a sign posted on the door that read, “closed for cleaning.” Residents have also informed The Springfield Student that the victim moved out of her room and off campus Wednesday night. As of Oct. 26 at 5:45 p.m., Public Safety claimed nobody had been charged or arrested for the assault. “It is an ongoing investigation,” a dispatch officer said.
Some residents of Abbey claim they saw a third-floor male resident put into the back of a police car on Monday, Oct. 23. A Public Safety dispatch officer stated that was for an unrelated incident.
Starting on Thursday, Oct. 20, extra security was placed in Abbey Hall on a 24-hour basis. There was a public safety officer at the front desk, an officer roaming the entire building, and an officer posted on the third floor. The officers escorted any residents who wanted to be escorted to the bathroom, laundry room, or anywhere else in the building. As of Wednesday evening at 5:45, there was still an officer standing in the hall of the third floor. She did not comment on the sexual assault other than, “There is an ongoing investigation.”
One resident said, “I do feel better knowing that there is increased security. I do believe the security could be more available and by making more rounds.”
On Thursday, Oct. 20 at 1:36 p.m., Chief of Police Karen Leary and Vice President of Student Affairs Shannon Finning sent out a campus-wide email informing students, faculty, and staff of the reported assault. The email reminded everyone of available counseling resources.
“The College is required to send a timely warning message to the community when we believe there is a serious and continuing threat to safety for members of our community for a crime that must be reported in our Clery statistics,” Finning said. “Also, from a moral and ethical perspective, we believed it was imperative for us to do so.”
Later that Thursday night at 8 p.m., a meeting was held in Abbey Hall for any residents who wanted more information. Finning, Leary, Director of Residence Life Robert Yanez, Director of the Counseling Center Brian Krylowicz, Interim Dean of Students Sue Nowlan, several Public Safety officers were among those who headed the meeting.
Finning said, “I felt it was important to allow members of the Abbey community to gather together with support and information from Student Affairs, Public Safety, the Counseling Center and Housing and Residence Life staff to both provide an overview of the facts that we knew about the incident to date, to discuss existing safety measures and ones that Chief Leary had ramped up in response to the incident and to answer any and all questions residents had. It was also important to normalize the range of emotions people were feeling and to ask residents to come forward with any and all information that might assist in the investigation.”
Brownies, cookies, and soda were available for the students, but nobody had the appetite. 70-90 females and 7-10 males were in attendance.
Finning opened the meeting by telling students that the victim told a professor that she was sexually assaulted and that professor reported the assault to Student Affairs and Public Safety. Finning and Leary finished talking and proceeded to open the room to questions. After five-minutes of heavy silence, residents began to ask questions.
One student who lives on the third floor of Abbey said, “The meeting was somewhat helpful. I left the meeting still feeling very unsettled. Had there been more information that could have been provided it may have been more helpful, but there was not much more they could provide for us than what was already stated in the email.”
“My hope is that students felt heard and supported and they understand how seriously we have taken this incident,” Finning added. “Public safety is our top priority and we will not rest until this situation is resolved. We are also committed to continuing to develop our preventative education, advocacy and support programs to benefit our campus as a whole.”
Residents have expressed their fear and concerns about living in the same hallway in which the alleged sexual assault occurred.
“I felt shocked, terrified, and sick to my stomach to know that something so awful could happen right outside my own room,” a female resident said.
Abbey resident Stephen Monahan added, “I hear about sexual assault cases on a national scale, but when it happens on the floor right above where you live, it’s kind of crazy. It’s definitely unnerving.”
Springfield College Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement Calvin Hill sent an email to faculty and staff informing them that the College is in the process of hiring a full-time Title IX Coordinator and Access Officer.
“This new position serves as the key resource for the College in ensuring compliance with all obligations under Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 504 related to policy and procedure, complaints and training,” part of the email read.
Title IX Coordinators are being hired at colleges and universities across the nation and are responsible for heading sexual assault investigations among many other things.
Finning said, “Our [interim] Title IX coordinator is Terry Vecchio. The deputy Title IX coordinator responsible for our student process is [Sue] Nowlan who has been working in close concert with Chief Leary on this matter.”
Public Safety has informed students, faculty, and staff that the assault will be actively pursued until the assailant is arrested or charged.
Greg can be reached on Twitter at @GregAllen20