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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Police bust shower’s Peeping Tom

Published: January 20, 2012
Section: Featured

Public Safety has identified the man accused of looking into a shower in the Gosman Athletic Center women’s locker room on Jan. 6 as a Brandeis student. Officials referred him to the Community Standards office and the student conduct board for potential disciplinary action, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan said.

In light of the incident, the university installed an electronic ID card scanner on Monday to monitor anyone entering the building.

Callahan did not rule out further action against the man, who was identified by the alleged victim and another student who works in Gosman.

Recreation and Aquatics Director Ben White, who helps manage the student staff in Gosman and who assisted police with the investigation, expressed some shock that the case was being referred “only” to the in-house Brandeis discipline system at this time.

“I was surprised the initial response has been just a referral and not filing real criminal charges,” he said. White added that it was beyond his jurisdiction and up to Public Safety and senior administration officials.

Callahan said it was still possible for the man to face criminal charges.

“A criminal complaint may also be applied, and we are currently looking at this course of action,” Callahan said in a phone interview on Thursday.

The man has been described as a lanky 6’ 3” with light brown hair and is believed to be about 20 years of age. Both the eyewitness, a student monitor who works for the Athletics department, and the complainant assisted in the investigation, Callahan said.

Footage from Public Safety’s CCTV cameras confirmed the account and led to the meeting with the man on Wednesday. University officials cannot reveal the identity of the suspect, they say, due to federal education privacy statutes.

The incident of alleged privacy violation and potential harassment was concluded relatively quickly, from an investigatory standpoint, and Callahan credited the technology as the feat that helped solve the situation so quickly. He remarked that in his 34 years at Brandeis, there have been only a couple of other instances at this level of privacy violation.

Technology will also be used to try to prevent such occurrences in the future with the card scanner. Public Safety will have a record of the cards used to enter the building and refer to it if a situation arises again.

“The card reader system can identify whose card is used to open the building at exactly what time,” Callahan said.

The Athletics office had been planning this security improvement for “at least a year,” according to White, and Public Safety was able to put it into place immediately in light of the shower incident.

“I have been pushing for this type of system,” White said, “and we were planning on installing it this summer, but Public Safety made it a priority and paid for it immediately after this report.”

Callahan said that “safety is paramount” and he consequently saw that it was installed as soon as possible—it was put in place by Monday.

The incident, which coincides with the new re-opening of the Linsey Pool scheduled for Monday, offered an “opportunity to review the safety procedures in the department before opening,” White said.

Both officials referred to the Brandeis Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook for the alleged violations and complaints against the student, citing its protections for individual privacy and rules banning such invasive harassment as the shower complaint would be.

Callahan said that his office makes determinations based on recommendations from both the Dean of Student Life’s office—which includes Community Standards and runs the conduct board—and the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

The university is viewing the incident as an unfortunate anomaly that they hope to avoid in the future.

“Our hope is that when [community members] swipe, they are aware of the new card reader system,” White, the recreation director, said, “and if they are inclined toward this behavior, they know that we’ll know who they are. Hopefully it will prevent them from doing it.”

Callahan said that although Public Safety investigates all cases, “people have to police their own behavior.” He called the invasion of privacy both disrespectful and completely unacceptable.