Four non-Stanford strangers have entered Manzanita Park residences in the past month, and some students believe that the dorms are particularly vulnerable because of their location on Campus Drive.
“When I was living in FloMo last year, we didn’t have anything like this, so it might have to do with the location,” said Lantana resident Grace Wu ’18.
The most recent incident occurred on Nov. 2 in Castaño. A resident found a stranger fondling himself and listening to loud pornography in the bathroom around 6 a.m. The stranger then followed the Castaño resident back to his room and asked if he “wanted to play.”
An email sent to residents by Lantana Resident Computer Consultant Sanjay Siddhanti ’16 described the three earlier incidents which happened in Lantana in October. The three cases involved a stranger sleeping in a hallway, an alleged alumnus using the men’s showers and “a random older man” who walked into the dorm behind a large group and proceeded to run into a bathroom when questioned.
Manzanita’s location has also made it a risk zone for theft in the past, according to an email from Humanities House Resident Fellow Dan Edelstein.
The Stanford Police Department emphasized that residents should always contact the police rather than dorm staff first when they see a suspicious person.
“The most important tip that came out of the incident is that we should just let police know immediately if we encounter anything suspicious, and that we don’t have to ask someone else what we should do first,” Siddhanti said.
“The police really wanted to emphasize that our instincts are good, so if we sense it’s suspicious we should just call 911,” he added.
Some residents were slow to identify risks. The stranger found sleeping on the second floor nook in Lantana on Oct. 15 was only brought to the dorm’s attention via email, delaying the security response. The sender noted that the man was “covered in leaves, as if he had been rolling around in the dirt” and also that the stranger was “alive, snoring slightly.”
“I think he [the resident who sent the email] might have thought it was someone’s friend — I mean, the stranger looked like he could be a Stanford student,” Wu said. “I know I thought it was an inside joke when I first saw the email.”
Siddhanti happened to see the email at 3:30 a.m. and notified the police, who escorted the stranger out three hours after he was first discovered. They later learned that the stranger had passed out drunk without any knowledge of where he was and that he was not a student at Stanford or any other university.
Dorm staff also reminded residents to check before letting visitors in.
“Of course, when people knock, our instinct is to answer the door — but if someone knocks and you don’t know that person, just ask who they are visiting,” Siddhanti wrote in his email.
As a safety measure, the Stanford University Department of Public Safety held a safety meeting on Nov. 11 for Lantana and Castaño residents during their regular house meeting. Important tips included approaching loiterers and stopping strangers without access passes from entering the dorm behind students. Police also reminded residents to keep access passes and keys safe.
Aside from the safety meeting and a flurry of dorm safety emails, the incidents have not had a lasting effect on residents.
“We talk about it sometimes, but we’re not that scared,” Wu said. “I’m a bit confused about what’s going on since I didn’t go to the safety meeting, and all the people who didn’t go wouldn’t know either.”
“I do ask people if they live here when they knock on the door at the main lounge now, but I’m not sure about other people,” Wu added.
Dorm staff at the Manzanita residences have worked to develop closer communication channels, creating a common mailing list to alert all staff when security concerns arise. Staff members have also checked with the Housing Front Desk to ensure that all windows and doors are in working condition.
Students with any further concerns or questions are asked to contact Bill Larson at the Stanford University Department of Public Safety.
Contact Fangzhou Liu at fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.