Around 1 a.m. on Sept. 19, an unknown perpetrator approached a resident of the New South dorm in a third floor women’s bathroom, repeatedly asking her questions despite her multiple requests for him to leave. He proceeded to follow her into the hallway.
“He continued to follow me to right outside of my room, putting his arms around me and asking me questions,” the New South resident told The Hoya. She wished to stay anonymous for safety reasons. “Eventually, I ran back to the bathroom, because I thought he was going to follow me into my room.”
While New South residents soon became aware of the perpetrator’s presence and officers from the Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) arrived shortly after the incident, the university made no effort to alert the student body of any risk, according to the same New South resident.
“Only New South students were reported of it, and it was a very bare-bones explanation of what happened,” she said. “I feel like it would be really important for other students to know if they need to be concerned for their safety.”
Many students told The Hoya that they think GUPD did not adequately communicate with the student body about possible safety risks during the Sept. 19 intrusion, despite the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires universities to release timely notifications of possible threats to students. GUPD also failed to implement sufficient safety measures to prevent future incidents, according to several students who spoke to The Hoya.
The Sept. 19 intrusion was not an isolated event: since August 2021, 37 unlawful entries or burglaries have been reported in the Georgetown Crime Log. The Sept. 19 incident, though, underscores the extent of GUPD’s inaction and poor communication, students said.
A Pattern of Intrusions
Students first voiced concerns following the Sept. 19 incident, in which an intruder entered New South — a first-year residence hall — by tailgating a group of students through a door typically only accessible via GoCard, an ID card provided to university students, faculty and staff.
At approximately 1:50 a.m., an unknown person pulled a fire alarm in New South, prompting both residents and the intruder to leave the building, according to the New South resident who interacted with the perpetrator.
GUPD officers then located the intruder outside of the building within the crowd of students and confiscated a pocket knife from him before he fled the scene, according to a Sept. 20 email that Residential Living sent on behalf of Jay Gruber, GUPD Chief of Police and Associate Vice President for Public Safety.
The Sept. 19 incident prompted an immediate reaction from the student body, with New South visitor Caleb Richmond (SFS ’25) writing an open letter calling on the university to improve communication with students during emergency situations.
“Not once were students told to shelter in place, nor were they alerted to the fact that an unidentified man found in a women’s restroom was on the run from the police,” the letter reads. “When information about the events spread, it was through word of mouth rumors.”
In addition to the Sept. 19 incident, at around 8 p.m. Sept. 16, an intruder entered the first floor of Reynolds Hall, according to Erin Powers (SFS ’24), a Reynolds Hall resident who was present at the time of the incident with a group of friends.
“He came back, sat down next to us, and took off his shirt and put cologne on, and then put his shirt back on,” Powers told The Hoya. “By that point, we were obviously creeped out a bit.”
Another intruder entered a Healy Hall classroom on Oct. 4 12:30 p.m., talking over students and refusing to leave an “Intro to Economic and Political Development” class, and another intruder entered Kennedy Hall in the evening of Oct. 8. Another student, who had seen the intruder in the lobby, called and waited for GUPD, Powers said.
Following the series of intrusions, students continue to request the university provide students with more detailed accounts of such incidents and alert the entire student population of safety concerns, according to the anonymous New South resident who interacted with the Sept. 19 intruder.
“It would be really important for other students to know if they need to be concerned for their safety because if someone broke into New South, I think everyone should know about it,” she said. “What I’d like to see is just more open and honest communication from the school.”
Lack of Timely Safety Warnings, Transparent Communication
GUPD first communicated about the Sept. 19 incident to students in an email sent at 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, about 20 hours after the incident took place. The email was sent only to New South residents, not all Georgetown students. Additionally, GUPD did not send a HOYAlert — a mass notification system designed to communicate risks and safety protocols — to immediately alert students about the intrusion.
The intruder was reported to be in a bathroom in New South and the fire alarm sounded shortly after, GUPD Chief Gruber wrote in the email.
“The unwanted person left the scene, though the investigation into the initial report is on-going and GUPD has determined that there is no immediate or on-going security risk to residents,” Gruber wrote. “Community safety and security is a concern for all of us.”
The university did not release the police report in question when The Hoya asked to review it.
However, according to a second email Gruber sent only to New South residents on Sept. 20 at around 5 p.m. — about 19 hours after the first email — GUPD had actually arrested the intruder.
The Hoya asked GUPD for comment on this inconsistency multiple times. GUPD declined to clarify and referred The Hoya back to the Sept. 20 email.
The first communication arrived too late, according to Mi Nei Daley (SFS ’22), a Resident Assistant in New South who was off-duty during the intrusion. Instead of sending an email almost a full day after the intrusion occurred, Daley said, GUPD should have alerted students using HOYAlert as soon as the incident was first reported.
“The alert should have gone out and there should have been lockdown procedures in place,” Daley told The Hoya. “I think that it could have been a faster response and that more communication was necessary.”
However, university officials did not send a HOYAlert on Sept. 19. University officials also did not send HOYAlerts about the intrusions on Sept. 16, Oct. 4 or Oct. 8. Every HOYAlert since August 2021 was related to weather events, public health conditions, or internet outages.
The absence of a timely alert to students was unacceptable and put students in danger, according to Phoebe Chambers (COL ’25), a New South resident who was not on campus at the time of the intrusion.
“The fact we get a HOYAlert when there is a thunderstorm but not when there’s a literal intruder in our dorms just feels wrong to me when we have this system set up,” Chambers told The Hoya.
Since the beginning of August 2021, 37 cases of burglary or unlawful entry have been reported by students, faculty, officers or other Georgetown affiliates as of Jan. 20, according to the Georgetown Crime Log.
GUPD did not send out HOYAlerts about any of these incidents.
In addition to HOYAlerts, GUPD issues Public Safety Alerts (PSAs) via email when incidents may constitute a felony or serious misdemeanor, involve hate or bias or may pose an ongoing threat to members of the university community.
According to the university’s archive of PSAs, GUPD issued only one public safety alert in 2021. That particular PSA was about a burglary in April around the 1200 block of 35th St. NW. GUPD issued 10 PSAs in 2020, and 23 PSAs in 2019.
The Hoya asked Gruber for comment on this lack of PSAs and HOYAlerts, but he declined to comment.
The university is responsible for communicating timely warnings of criminal activity that poses threats to students under the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal statute that requires colleges and universities to publish annual security reports and release timely notifications during emergency situations on campus. The U.S. Department of Education conducts reviews under a variety of circumstances to evaluate schools’ compliance with the Clery Act.
In Georgetown’s 2021 Annual Security report, which GUPD released Oct. 1, 2021, the department claimed that it adhered to the Clery Act by releasing HOYAlerts and other notifications.
“HOYAlert sends messages with guidance in the event of an incident affecting the safety or security of Georgetown University’s Main Campus, Medical Center, School of Continuing Studies and Law Center,” the report says. “Messages can be sent at any time as incidents occur, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”
While unable to legally say whether Georgetown violated the Clery Act, the lack of timely communication from GUPD during the Sept. 19 incident was concerning, according to Shiwali Patel, Director of Justice for Student Survivors and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.
“If they’re considering this to be an emergency, then they should know as soon as possible when the emergency occurs. So if they had known about the intruder 20 hours earlier, the students should have been informed earlier just because so much can happen in 20 hours,” Patel told The Hoya. “How can students trust the university to give them a timely warning? So that is really scary.”
Students Advocate for GUPD Action
In lieu of adequate communication from GUPD, students and RAs felt obligated to respond to the New South intrusion themselves and take personal responsibility for student safety, according to Daley, a New South RA.
“We spent the entire night out there doing crowd control,” Daley said, recalling the Sept. 19 incident. “Some of us even putting ourselves in harm’s way.”
RAs have not been trained for these kinds of situations, according to Daley.
RAs have a two-week training session including information about what it means to be an RA, new health and safety protocols, and managing common floor issues, according to New South RA Ireland Neville (SFS ’24), who agreed that training did not cover intrusions.
The university trains RAs to support students and contact officials when there are health and safety concerns, according to the university spokesperson.
The Georgetown University Student Association passed “A Resolution to Demand Transparency with Regards to Student Safety” on Sept. 19, claiming that the university did not adequately communicate with students about the Sept. 19 intrusion and university safety measures. The resolution requested greater use of a standard operating procedure to contact students about safety risks and demanded the administration elaborate on the details of the intrusion.
Following the intrusions, Chambers felt that GUPD and the Georgetown administration blamed them for allowing perpetrators to tailgate into residence halls, and that GUPD failed to take responsibility for its poor response to the situation, she said.
“There was the fact that they took absolutely zero accountability when they put so many students in danger. That really made me upset,” Chambers said. “There was never an acknowledgment of ‘maybe we should have done this a little differently.’ It was very much blaming students for letting the intruder tailgate.”
In response to these intrusions, Georgetown has reintroduced student guards, paid students who supplement security guards at some residence hall entrances and facilities, including New South, Kennedy, Reynolds and McCarthy Halls, during weekend evenings, according to a university spokesperson. Student guards are trained each semester, and while they do not have arrest powers, they work with GUPD to respond to issues.
The return of student guards is a step in the right direction, according to Powers.
“It’s nice — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, usually there’s a student or someone at least sitting outside the elevators,” Powers said. “At least they did something after it all happened.”
However, student guards have not always been effective, according to a second anonymous New South resident, who witnessed his fellow residents interacting with the perpetrator. The student requested to be anonymous.
“I’ve noticed a student guard’s presence maybe twice, and they haven’t ever asked me for my ID,” the student wrote in an email to The Hoya. “If they’re actually serious about keeping us safe, they should invest in our safety and have actual guards posted overnight on the weekends.”
Additionally, campus police have increased patrol presence in the lobbies and near the residence halls during periods where there is an increase in intrusions, according to the university spokesperson.
Several weeks after the Sept. 19 incident, the same New South resident visited the GUPD station in person because he was frustrated with what they viewed as a lack of a response to the intrusion. When the student arrived, officers began interrogating them about their motive for coming, they told The Hoya.
“They were like, ‘Are you from The Hoya? Do you have any Hoya credentials?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not with The Hoya.’ And they asked me three or four times if I was with The Hoya,” the student said.
The student has never worked for The Hoya.
The student felt that GUPD did not respond empathetically to his frustrations, nor did they offer him a chance to openly express his concerns.
“Why didn’t you have a meeting with us? Say, ‘We know you’re scared,’” they told The Hoya. “‘What could we do to improve?’ That’s all they needed to do.”