Imposter student caught, removed from Crothers Hall

Oct. 28, 2022, 2:14 a.m.

A man impersonating a Stanford student was discovered living in the basement of Crothers Hall and removed from campus, according to messages sent Thursday night in the dorm’s Slack.

The messages, which were sent by Crothers Hall resident assistant (RA) Peyton Robertson ’24, said the man posed as a Stanford sophomore from Birmingham, Ala. and lived in the basement for weeks.

The man was caught Thursday morning and given a stay away order after he was discovered to have taken a television from the dorm basement, according to the messages. The messages said if the man returns to campus he will be arrested, though residential staff “don’t have any reason to believe that the person was a threat.”

The Daily has reached out to the University and the Stanford University Department of Public Safety for comment.

Students living in the dorm told The Daily Thursday night that the man, who identified himself as William Curry, has lived in the dorm since the second week of the quarter, socialized with the other residents and was let into the dorm regularly by sympathetic RAs. According to screenshots obtained by The Daily of messages sent Friday afternoon to the Crothers Hall dorm Slack, RAs repeatedly requested, but were not granted, access to a roster of residents living in the basement, where temporary housing is located.

“The Crothers basement has temporary rooms that the university uses for students requiring a transition in housing; e.g. a maintenance issue that makes it unsafe to stay in a room. On several occasions, we’ve asked for a roster of residents living in the basement and have been told that the request couldn’t be accommodated because it would be a ‘student privacy violation,’” the screenshot read. “Without such a roster, we ultimately can’t verify who should and shouldn’t be in the dorm. This is a policy we have pushed back against and will continue to push back against.”

Stanford’s Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) did not immediately respond to The Daily’s request for comment regarding whether RAs were given such a roster of basement residents.

“It was shocking, just realizing that he lied to us,” said Crothers Hall resident Olivia Roti ’26. “We just went along with it, we totally believed him. We were panicking about being put in the Crothers basement next year.”

This is not the first time a person has impersonated a student and lived in a dorm: 15 years ago, an 18-year-old woman from Orange County posed as a first-year student and lived in Kimball and Okada. In 2018, a homeless man spent a night in Meier Hall.

Tensions were high in Crothers Thursday night after the messages were sent in the Slack. RAs asked Daily reporters to show identification before escorting them from the building, and student residents said they felt flustered and nervous.

Graham Johnstone ’26, a Crothers Hall resident, said he attended high school with Curry at Vestavia Hills High School, a public school in a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., Johnstone said Curry claimed he had been recruited to run for Stanford Track & Field during Curry’s junior year in 2020. He graduated in 2021. 

“People had suspicions,” Johnstone said, “He wasn’t that great of a student. His track times weren’t near fast enough.” 

According to Curry’s online athletic.net profile, which is a website that records competitors’ data, his 400 meter records were at least six seconds off Stanford athletes’ times.

But once Johnstone saw Curry in his residence hall, he said his personal suspicion waned: “We took a picture together, sent it back home to, like, clear the confusion, settle the rumor,” he said.

Johnstone said he was shocked to find out his old high school classmate was a squatter. “Part of me doesn’t believe it’s actually for real,” he said. “Just because this is a story that has been spanning for three years.”

Four students in Crothers Hall said Curry was rumored to have lived in Roble Hall last year for an extended period and avoided a stay-away order, like the one he received Thursday, by dodging residential staff. This was in line with the message sent to the dorm Slack, which said, “This is a person who had done the same thing in another dorm previously.”

The impersonator was often seen sporting a Stanford athletic backpack and gave the impression that he was a member of the track team, five Crother’s residents told The Daily. They said Curry claimed that he was studying neuroscience on a pre-med track and even created an Instagram account with a bio including “Stanford 25” and tagging the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Curry did not appear on a publicly posted roster of Coca-Cola scholars released by the foundation each year.

A screenshot of williamcurry_'s instagram reading William Curry Stanford 25'| Birmingham | @cokescholars www.ftmarketing.agency/
Curry’s Instagram bio claimed he was part of Stanford’s Class of 2025 and a Coke Scholar. (Screenshot: THEO BAKER/The Stanford Daily)

The message in the dorm Slack said many residents “interacted with [the person] positively,” and residents told The Daily that Curry appeared to be a normal student thanks to his elaborate alibi.

“I was shocked, because I had met him before. We had been baking brownies in the kitchen with a group of us and he walked in and introduced himself. We fed him brownies and then eventually he gave us a room tour of his room in the basement,” Roti said.

Curry’s purported living situation was believable due to rumors that students were placed in the basement of Crothers Hall due to a shortage of housing on campus, students said.

“I have had other friends in the dorm tell me about sophomores being stuck in the basement here because there wasn’t any space and housing in other places,” said another Crothers Hall resident, Kim Ngo ’26.

“So at first I thought it was maybe because he had to stay in the neighborhood, but I also thought, like, I don’t think Stanford would do that and just push people to the basement,” Ngo added.

But Curry’s act fell apart after the television in the basement of Crothers went missing. Residential staff confirmed in a message to the dorm Slack that the metal security cable holding the television had been cut and the television had been removed, resulting in suspicions from students as to who had conducted the theft.

“We tried to imagine every single one of [the scenarios] and we reasoned that it couldn’t have been someone from outside, you know, a random person trying to do petty theft, because it’s very random, you have to get in, logistically it doesn’t make sense to be carrying a TV, and they also replaced it,” said Crothers Hall resident Hamza Alsamraee ’26.

The message sent to the dorm Slack said “follow-up conversations” about security are taking place. The incident comes just days after the Faculty Senate discussed tightening security measures on campus through increased video surveillance.

“This guy didn’t do anything harmful to anyone, I mean, damaged some property but didn’t do anything harmful to an actual human,” said Alsamraee. “But the fact that it slid by for a year and a half does make me feel a little uneasy, given that there are like, very little security measures that exist.”

This piece has been updated to include additional details regarding RAs’ communication with residents about the incident.

Cassidy Dalva '25 is a desk editor for the University Desk in the News section. She also serves as The Daily's Staff Development Director. A prospective economics major from Los Angeles, California, Cassidy enjoys singing and spending time outdoors in her free time. Contact her at [email protected]Theo Baker is a writer for the campus life desk. Contact news 'at' stanforddaily.com.Contact Oriana at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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