It has been only a few weeks since the start of the Spring 2023 semester at Rutgers University, and students are already facing many challenges outside of classes, which leaves many worried about their safety on campus.
At the very beginning of the semester, Frelinghuysen Hall, a residence hall on the College Avenue campus, dealt with freezing cold "slimy" water with a strong scent resembling chlorine that dripped throughout the building.
This left residents uncomfortable and concerned due to the quality of the water and the potential risk of serious health conditions such as infections or skin conditions.
"I have super sensitive skin," said Trinidad Alfonsin, a first-year in the School of Arts and Sciences and resident in Frelinghuysen Hall. "In middle school, I had eczema … It started triggering again when I started showering here."
Residents were urged to file maintenance requests to get the building staff to take action to fix the water. Since many students living in Frelinghuysen had to rely on swipe access for other residence halls or gym bathrooms to be able to take a warm and clean shower, the situation caused complications for many people as their schedules were disrupted.
On January 19, Frelinghuysen Hall was also a target of an act of vandalism, which scared the residents as well as onlookers. A man threw rocks at the windows of the downstairs lounges, shattering the glass and placing residents at risk of being injured.
Alfonsin was also a witness to the incident and was especially concerned because as an international student, she has always been fearful of the prevalence of gun violence in U.S. schools and universities. While witnessing the incident, she considered the possibility of the perpetrator using a gun.
Although it is unknown whether the perpetrator had any intention of harming residents, this incident sheds light on the issue of how easily nonresidents can access buildings on campus and potentially harm the people inside.
A lot of students are able to go home if they feel unsafe or simply to get a break from campus. Unfortunately, out-of-state and international students do not have that liberty since they live too far away to be able to go back whenever they desire. This leaves them more vulnerable to crime and violence, and they have no choice but to live on campus with poor housing conditions.
Residence halls are places where students spend most of their time throughout the year. In a way, they become a home away from home. If similar incidents continue to occur, students will feel unsafe living in their halls, and many would be constantly worrying about their safety since there is no other place they can go.
To make matters worse, the Panera Bread near the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus had a similar incident the same day as the Frelinghuysen incident. The windows were shattered, and the perpetrator had allegedly stolen from the restaurant.
Whether these two acts were connected or not, the fact that they happened on the same day around the same time on the same campus is concerning for students and their safety.
Even people unaffiliated with the University but on or near the New Brunswick campus were victims of crimes. On January 31, there was a burglary that occurred near Guilden Street in which the perpetrator had brandished a knife.
The very next day, on February 1, there was another incident near The Yard @ College Avenue. The victim was robbed and then pushed by the perpetrator before they escaped.
Safety concerns extend beyond students that reside on campus. These cases are concerning regardless of whether they happened to University students or not because students live off campus in these areas and are therefore in danger of becoming victims of these crimes.
It is concerning that these incidents occurred around the same time, immediately following the start of the semester when new and old students are arriving on campus.
The University is supposed to be a trusted and safe place where students can get a quality education. Tighter security should be implemented to ensure students can live on campus too without worrying if they are going to be a target of crime or violence.
Buildings should be maintained and checked frequently to ensure that students' living conditions are safe so they can be comfortable and healthy. No student should fear coming back because they are worried about their physical well-being and safety.
Vidhi Koli is a first-year student in the School of Arts and Sciences where she is undecided. Her column, 'Talk More,' runs on alternate Thursdays.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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