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Assault at Kissena Gate

CORRECTION 6/23/21: This article has been edited to correct an inaccuracy. The article previously stated that Jennifer Jarvis, AVP for Student Affairs, had not followed up with the victim. At the time of the article’s publication, there had already been repeated correspondence between Ms. Jarvis and the victim.

Two students of Queens College (QC) were assaulted just outside the gates of the school, nine days apart from each other. 

The first incident occurred on Tuesday, May 11th at 10 a.m. to a female student who is currently a junior at QC, majoring in Neuroscience, biology, and psychology. Her name will remain anonymous but for the purpose of the article she will be named Diana. 

Diana reflects on her assault by stating, “I first saw him walking toward me as I was approaching the closed gate across from Gino’s Pizza. I saw that he was mouthing words and making some gestures. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I turned my attention to him shortly before we passed each other. I turned my head and looked up at him as we were passing. In between broken sentences, he took a bite of an egg sandwich before spitting it in my face.”

Diana added, “I was shocked and completely caught off guard. It had not even occurred to me that he would target me intentionally, I turned to look back at him and make sense of the situation, which is when he struck me. I remember feeling the impact at the top of my forehead and the strain in my hair. Instinctively, I turned and started to run away. I could still feel my hair being pulled.”

Diana went straight to a public safety officer where her statement was taken and the police, as well as EMTs were called. Diana recalls the perpetrator as erratic, highly aggressive, and mentally unstable. “At the time, I wasn’t clear on public safety’s responsibilities. However, I was taken aback that they did not take any immediate action to address the threat this man posed being so close to campus.”

According to a PowerPoint presented by Public Safety, “Public Safety’s Patrol Officers report and respond to any suspicious activity seen on campus. They also serve as a deterrent so people will think twice before committing any potential wrongdoings. A CUNY Public Safety patrol vehicle is stationed on the Quad during evening hours.”

However, Diana’s assault happened just outside the gates of QC. “The entire assault happened just feet from the border campus gates. It was so close to campus, and campus security confirmed that the entire assault was recorded by their cameras.” 

“The most disconcerting part of this experience was that the assault happened less than 100 yards from the open Kissena gate. This was well within the ear and eyeshot of several public safety guards. Despite all of these measures, the entire assault went undetected. No one even knew it was happening let alone intervened to help me, and that reality has shaken me to the core.”

Diana said she went to the public safety office to follow-up for any new ways to keep their students safe. “Right off the bat, one of the guards emphasized how effective public safety’s efforts are at maintaining a safe campus with no crime rate, which further reinforced how great a job they were doing and reaffirmed their decisions. I redirected the conversation back to the crime rate existing outside the campus, which is the root of my concern. She responded by stating that public safety is void of all responsibility of protecting students outside the QC gates because ‘that’s a police matter.’”

Diana has reached out to her professors hoping that they’d be working towards a solution for the safety of QC’s students, one of them being Dr. Maral Tajerian of the Biology department.

“We are very saddened and concerned to hear about the assault on one of our students,” said Tajerian. “We take great care to ensure that the students feel safe in our lab space and have confidence that the college will take the necessary steps to ensure their safety on and around the campus.”

Dr. Daniel Weinstein, Dean of Faculty at the School of Mathematics and Natural Science said, “Providing a safe and respectful learning environment is among our highest priorities as Queens College educators. I was deeply troubled by the off-campus incident in which our student was involved, but gratified by the rapidity of Public Safety’s response. I am advised that Public Safety requested EMS assistance by calling 911 — which, according to procedure, also brought the NYPD to campus — to provide the student with immediate medical attention; a Public Safety officer accompanied the student onto Kissena Boulevard to try to locate the perpetrator, and took the student’s statement on the incident.” 

Weinstein added,“Jennifer Jarvis, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, provided support to the student that focused on her emotional well-being and extended the offer of any necessary academic accommodations that she may need as a result of the incident. The student was encouraged to continue to focus on her studies and was assured that Student Affairs staff would schedule a time to review any of her needs in more detail following the completion of her end of term.”

“As a college community, we have had to cope with many pandemic-related protocols, among them monitoring and check-in procedures that — while they may alter our regular routine and access to campus — are in place to protect the health and safety of everyone who is on campus learning and working. The fall semester will likely see adjustments in general campus access.”

The next incident happened on Thursday, May 20th at 10:30 a.m. to another female who is a junior as well, majoring in biology and psychology. She also wishes to remain anonymous, but for the purpose of this article her name is Andrea. 

Andrea was walking in Kissena Park, right across the street from the main gate of Queens College. She was towards the entrance near the swings and recalls that it wasn’t that busy since it was around 10:30 in the morning. Andrea states, “I was facing away from the entrance and was looking down on my phone and then saw someone touching themselves inappropriately. I then turned around and started walking away since I was in shock and was scared if something worse could happen. I chose to wait by Gino’s pizzeria rather than actually go to the college and get help because of how little they deal with situations like these.”

“Since this isn’t the first time something of this nature has happened to me, I know how little effort public safety puts into situations like these and basically wanted to save myself from being questioned and being told ‘Oh, well it could’ve been worse than that.’ Ever since then, I always have an uneasy feeling when being near that park and even when walking alone in that area.”

The Public Safety office prides themselves on how the school is kept safe by the very best, however these incidents happened just days from each other and were brushed off as if the students’ safety did not matter. 

“I’m finishing my third year at QC. Throughout my college career, I have been very active on campus. In fact, during my time at QC, I have spent more time on campus than I have at home,” said Diana. “I love being a QC student, and I enjoy spending my time on campus in the lab. However, after this incident, I haven’t returned to campus. I still don’t feel safe, and until action is taken to prioritize student safety, I will never feel safe whilst on campus.”

It should be noted that Andrea did not go to Public Safety for the very reason that she felt that she would not have been taken seriously. “The fact that I felt it was better to deal with the situation on my own rather than getting help from my own college should show how unreliable and judgemental that it could be. As much as I hope that something like this won’t happen to other people, and there is a big possibility that it will, I just want there to be more support for the people that it happens to.”

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