Trigger Warning: The following article contains content pertaining to sexual harassment.
A petition alleging sexual harassment on campus and urging Montclair State University administration to take action has amassed over 1,200 signatures.
Tori Gluck, a freshman undecided, started the petition after hearing about the allegations from one of her classmates.
“I want [administration] to say they’re actually listening to us and that they’re making a change,” Gluck said.
Women on campus are beginning to come forward and share their experiences. A freshman biology major who chose to remain anonymous was sexually harassed in a study room in Dinallo Heights.
“He started to be very sexual and said, ‘Oh you should fix the fact that you have a boyfriend because our date is soon,’” the student said. “These comments persisted and he refused to move away from me, slowly cornering me in this room with no camera. I was not interested because I do have a boyfriend, and [though] I said this to him, he still persisted saying more and more things. At this point, I was very uncomfortable.”
The student said the comments continued even as she left the room.
“As I was leaving, he still made comments about my body [and said] other things about how I physically [looked], which to be honest, takes a toll on how you see yourself,” the student said.
The student did not report the incident to campus police, but she did file a Title IX report. She said some action has been taken since the incident occurred.
“I know that he is no longer a resident at Dinallo, considering the multiple reports that girls have made about him from my floor as well,” the student said. “This experience was very scary, but I have had something similar happen to me before off-campus, so I was not a stranger to it and was able to control myself.”
A sophomore fashion studies major who chose to remain anonymous said she was sexually harassed on move-in day.
“Two months ago on move-in day, I was checking in so I could move some of my stuff in,” the student said. “It [was] around 11:15 a.m. that I felt my rear end was slapped.”
The student said the suspect got away before the police arrived, but she remembered many of his attributes.
“I remember his eyes, what he was wearing that day and his face,” the student said.
The student then explained her interactions with university police.
“The cops took my statement,” the student said. “The next day, I got a call from the detective and she said that they are finding him. I told her that there were [cameras] and that I wanted to press charges against him when he is found. [A] few days later, she called me and informed [me] that the [cameras weren’t] working that day, [so] they didn’t find him.”
The student said she has not heard from university police since then.
In addition to this case, there have been multiple incidents where the police were called to the dorms within the past several weeks. During the week of Sept. 21 to Sept. 28, the police blotter included incidents of harassment, stalking and assault in Machuga Heights.
Deputy Chief Kieran Barrett from the Montclair State Police Department said that while the incidents occurred during the same week in the same place, they were not related.
“While it would be quite the story to connect any of these, they are not connected in the least,” Barrett said. “Machuga and Dinallo [Heights] are large complexes with a lot of activity, as you can imagine.”
Barrett added that they are not seeking out any individual connected to those incidents or any other incident.
Dr. Dawn Soufleris, vice president for student development and campus life, said she is aware of the petition and has met with students to discuss the allegations.
“I can assure all concerned students that any case of harassment that is reported to [Montclair State] is thoroughly investigated, and action is taken when appropriate,” Soufleris said. “Often, it may look like nothing has happened, but I can guarantee you that is not the case.”
Minnie Mehta, a junior biology major, said the school should do more to protect women.
“It’s 2021. If you can raise tuition costs, you can have campus police at every single corner of this campus,” Mehta said. “Women make up the majority of this university. Protect us.”
Emily McCormack, a sophomore film and television major, said the allegations have made her more concerned about her safety.
“I would really like to see the school not only address this real issue but make sure they make it public, as so many students across campus are anxiously waiting for action to be taken,” McCormack said.
There are several steps students can take to protect themselves from harassment. Barrett said university police will start self-defense programming again in November.
“We teach and preach students to be street smart using [everyday] objects and realistic maneuvers that anyone can master,” Barrett said.
Certain percentages and volumes of chemical sprays are permitted on campus as well. Other weapons such as knives or cutters are not allowed. Barrett said the best form of self-defense is usually not a weapon.
“The best self-defense many times is the way we handle ourselves, instinct and choices, and to recognize that many times the problem is not lurking strangers but who we might be dating, who we might trust and who are our alleged friends,” Barrett said. “If something doesn’t seem right, many times it is not.”