Hidden camera in Harleston Hall bathroom sparks TUPD, student responses

First-year dorm Harleston Hall is pictured on April 11, 2017. (Alexis Serino / The Tufts Daily Archives)

The Tufts University Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) sent out an email on May 8 informing residents of Harleston Hall of the reported discovery of hidden cameras in one of the dorm’s all-gender, single-use bathrooms.

ORLL immediately reported the incident to the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD), which resulted in an investigation. On May 9, students were able to receive updates regarding the case at the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs. On May 10, TUPD notified Harleston residents that the camera had additionally been placed in two different restrooms and that the individual who set the cameras had been identified.

Kevin Maguire, executive director of public safety, which includes TUPD, explained to the Daily via email the steps taken by law enforcement and the administration from the moment they were notified directly by a student concerning the situation.

“An officer [was] dispatched to respond and to investigate, and on some calls, a supervisor responds as well. In this case, a supervisor responded too,” he said.

Maguire explained the process taken to investigate the incident.

“The supervisor and the officer conduct the initial investigation, safeguard any evidence, interview witnesses or victims and make proper notifications. In this case, the students also immediately notified Residential Life, and DOSA [Dean of Student Affairs] became involved quickly,” he said.

Despite the severity of the incident, Maguire emphasized that occurrences like this are a rarity at Tufts. He noted the general respect of the Tufts population for university policies and the law as a whole helps to keep the campus secure.

A May 10 email stated that a Tufts student took responsibility for the incident shortly after the investigation began.

“From what TUPD’s investigation can determine at this time, there are no images of users of the restrooms in any stage of undress,” the email read.

Maguire identified the culprit as a resident of Harleston Hall.

“The student cooperated with TUPD investigators when presented with the facts and circumstances of the case, which TUPD developed rapidly,” he said.

The May 10 email not only notified students of TUPD’s identification of the individual but also discussed the involvement of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office regarding the fate of the student. Maguire expects disciplinary action to come quickly from the Dean of Student Affairs Office.

“The Dean of Student Affairs Office takes these types of cases very seriously, works closely with TUPD, and acts swiftly to help safeguard the university community,” he said.

Hareston Hall resident Zoe McKeown was shocked to learn about the incident from another resident on the first floor shortly after TUPD left the dorm after initiating the investigation.

“I felt so gross,” McKeown said in an electronic message to the Daily. “I use those bathrooms, and I was just mad that a part of my daily routine that is private was a part of someone’s pervy scheme. It’s one of those incidents of indirect violation that actually feels worse.”

McKeown noted a change in her feeling of security on campus.

“I don’t think I’m going to feel comfortable on campus anytime soon knowing that I could be monitored at any point,” she said. “Plus, I don’t think Tufts is going to take any serious disciplinary action.”

Sofia Levy, another resident of Harleston Hall, was made aware of the incident by her First-Year Assistants (FYA). The situation startled her.

“I was initially pretty shocked that a situation like this would happen,” Levy, a sophomore, said. “All of the people I met in my dorm were very respectful, and if I ever had concerns, I knew I could trust on my FYA to address them.”

Levy thought the single-gender bathrooms in Harleston would guarantee more privacy than the communal showers in other halls. The discovery of the cameras made it clear to her that situations like this can happen in any dorm on campus. This event has altered her perspective on campus security.

“Although I feel very safe on Tufts’ campus, this event will definitely make me more aware of my surroundings both on and off campus,” she said. “I think this event serves as a reminder to always be cautious of your surroundings and to look out for yourself and others.”

Maguire agreed, saying the ordeal in Harleston Hall demonstrates the importance of maintaining a degree of attentiveness on campus and beyond. He noted that ultimately the cameras were discovered due to the alertness of the students that reported them, and he commended them for their actions.

“Although victims are never at fault for the crimes that happen to them, there are steps we can all take to raise awareness and vigilance,” he said.

Maguire also emphasized the need for education and reporting in such incidents.

“Education regarding the law and policy around use of video equipment can be undertaken. All students and staff can be vigilant regarding objects that suddenly appear in areas where residents have an elevated expectation of privacy, such as restrooms, shower areas and bedrooms,” he said. “And if you see something, say something.”


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