A Message from Dean Larimore about Campus Safety

October 2, 2008

Dear Friends,

At Swarthmore, student safety is one of our primary concerns. We are fortunate to live in a caring and safe campus community, but it is still important that we remain vigilant and attentive to issues of campus safety. Incidents that affect student safety are extremely rare here, but this fall we have dealt with two situations - one that involved dorm security and another that involved bicycle safety - that I want you to know about in order to give you a sense of how we respond to protect the safety of our students.

First, during move-in weekend, an unidentified male intruder gained access to a student dorm and entered the unlocked room of a female student while she slept. The student screamed when she became aware of the intruder's presence, causing him to flee from the building. The student contacted Public Safety right away, Public Safety and the Swarthmore Police responded immediately, and a campus alert was subsequently posted on campus buildings and distributed by email to notify the campus community about the incident. Public Safety responded quickly to secure the building and staff from the Dean's Office responded to support the student.

Because it was unclear how the intruder gained access to the building, we limited points of entry to the building's main entrance, which was then monitored until all of the building's exterior locks had been changed. The Police have not been able to identify the intruder, but there have been no subsequent incidents of this nature and we remain vigilant.

As we do each fall, we began our safety education efforts during Orientation as new students arrived on campus. Since the incident, we have reminded students about the importance of locking their room doors, urged them not to prop open exterior doors, and asked students to immediately report any damaged door or window locks to our facilities office so they can be repaired. We have also supported a student "Stop the Prop" outreach campaign to discourage students from compromising student safety by leaving exterior doors propped open or by tampering with the lock mechanisms on exterior doors.

We have engaged students in discussions about measures to improve campus security. We held a focus group with RAs to discuss student perspectives on the pros and cons of a variety of additional security measures that are being examined, such as alarms on exterior doors, limiting building access to fewer points of entry for each dorm, and/or installing an electronic access control system. Student Council hosted a student forum on campus security and is now gathering additional student feedback about a variety of alternative security measures, and we look forward to student input. Student safety is a primary concern and we want to develop solutions and strategies that students will embrace and support.

In the second situation, one of our students sustained serious head injuries when the bicycle she was riding struck a vehicle as she was crossing an intersection near the Mary Lyon dorm. The student is receiving medical treatment at an area medical center and we have been in close touch with her family. They are a strong and loving family and have commented on the outpouring of support and concern from members of the College community. I want to thank all of you who have extended your care and kindness to the student and her family, and ask that you continue to hold them in your thoughts and prayers as she continues to heal.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Harvard and Yale avenues, a location that has been of concern to the College and the Borough of Swarthmore for some time. Yale Avenue is a State road, so efforts to address the safety of that intersection will necessarily involve efforts to influence the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which has not previously been supportive of changes to that intersection. We know that the change process will be complex and require great effort and have already begun to work closely with officials in the Borough of Swarthmore and the Borough's recently established Traffic Advisory Committee to advocate for improved safety changes there.

We are actively promoting bicycle safety, encouraging students to wear bicycle helmets whenever riding and reminding them that listening to music through ear buds can impair their ability to hear traffic noise. We have held two bicycle safety events in the past year, one of which took place during Orientation, and we are now organizing a third such event. Through the generosity of an alumni donor, we have distributed about 40 free bicycle helmets to students over the past year. I am pleased to report that the same alumnus has generously agreed to provide additional helmets for distribution as part of our current bicycle safety education efforts. We are also encouraging students who already own helmets to wear them, and we would welcome your assistance in that effort.

Incidents such as these are, thankfully, rare here and we are grateful that is the case. However uncommon these situations might be, though, student safety is a paramount concern. I hope that this letter will help you to better understand some of the ways that we work, in both proactive and responsive ways, to protect the health and safety of members of our community.

Sincerely,

Jim Larimore
Dean of Students