July 14, 2024

Two chairs are socially distanced on the third floor of Thomas Library on Aug. 10, 2020. Thomas Library has removed nearly half of its chairs in aid of social distancing and installed dividers in locations which are unable to social distance.

By Ethan Bochicchio and Matthew Wink

On the evening of Sept. 12 between 6:40 PM and 6:45 PM, a man unaffiliated with the school was spotted masturbating between the periodicals of the first floor of Thomas Library. A group of people consisting of Writing Center student employees, Math Workshop student employees, and other students were utilizing that space that evening.

According to one source present at the scene, upon being noticed by students, the man left the floor, taking the elevator back to the second floor where he exited the building. When the Writing Center closed at 9:00 PM, Professor Michael Mattison, director of the Writing Center, was contacted. Together with a Writing Center employee who wished to remain anonymous, Mattison contacted the police, and a police report was filed. Officer Amy Mosier was on the scene.

The student who filed the police report said to The Torch, “In that moment you’re just like frozen… I knew he wasn’t a student, so it’s very much like if he can do this, like what else can he do?”

According to this student, Officer Mosier told her that Wittenberg Police would follow up with them. By Sept. 19, a follow-up had yet to occur. The student voiced concern over this to Mattison, who told them he would reach out to the police, and they contacted the student the following day.

On Sept. 22, an email was sent out to Student Center student workers with a picture of the suspect. No context was given regarding the event. Two days later, almost two weeks after the incident, Wittenberg Police Department Chief Jim Hutchins sent the first school-wide email regarding the incident, under the subject “Investigation Update.” This email provided a number to call should anyone have information on the suspect, whom was described as a “40-year-old man” with no other descriptive details.

On Wednesday, Sept. 29, another email went out to all Wittenberg students, faculty, and staff from Chief Hutchins, confirming that a suspect will be criminally charged for an incident that took place on Sept. 12 in the Writing Center and Math Workshop.

The email read, “Late Friday afternoon, we were told the name of the suspect in the library investigation. We have talked with the suspect and verified that he is in fact the responsible person.”

This event has sparked discussion on campus concerning safety. Since Sept. 12, additional lights have been installed on the floor of the Writing Center. Eyewitnesses of the incident have attested to what may be increased police surveillance of the first floor of Thomas Library. Lacking comment from Wittenberg PD, this can neither be confirmed nor denied.

“We are certainly working with the tutors and advisors to hear their concerns and consider what we can do as we move forward, as well as offering them support in whatever manner will most help,” Mattison said.

Some students have voiced frustration over the fact that other incidents in the past have not been met with an increase in security. The Torch later identified a 2018 incident on the first floor of the Thomas Library, among others.

Regarding a potential increase in safety measures, the individual who filed the police report told The Torch, “I don’t want it to be a thing where it’s like this tense thing going to the library…. [The] HPER has somebody checking student ID cards, and they were quick to put that in and it was over stolen iPads.”

Associate professor of Sociology and Director of the Womyn’s Center Brooke Wagner has also been involved with supporting student workers connected to the incident.

“Crimes like this one, can be very frightening and leave those involved as well as those that learn about it feeling uneasy, unsafe, and sometimes afraid. It’s important that we offer support to those in need,” Wagner said.

Wagner encouraged anyone dealing with difficult emotions surrounding this incident to utilize the on-campus resources, namely, “campus pastors, [the] counseling center and the Open Advocate hours on [Tuesdays and Wednesdays from] 11:00-2:00 PM in the [Womyn’s Center]” located in room 103 of the Shouvlin Center.

The Torch is conducting further journalistic investigation regarding campus safety. If you have a lead, comment or concern, please email torch@wittenberg.edu.

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