Take a look around. Do you feel safe?

An incident that occurred this past Monday in the Annex building of the Eastman School of Music has prompted many downtown to feel more like kids in a big city than students at a music school.

On Monday afternoon, two female undergraduates reported separate unwanted interactions with what is thought to be the same man.

According to a security report and the ensuing Safety Bulletin issued by the UR Crime Prevention Office, the suspect harassed one student. He then proceeded to follow, make sexual comments toward and grab the other.

This aggressor, described as a 5’5” tall, dark-haired, white male in his 30s, finally fled while the student screamed for help. Neither victim was injured.

Freshman Andrea Weber was in the Annex immediately after the incident occurred. “If they don’t do something about this, it’s wrong,” Weber said, referring to security and administration. “We have enough stress at this school ? we shouldn’t have to worry about someone coming in and attacking us while we practice.”

Weber, who is from New York City, was verbally harassed the day before while walking down Gibbs Street. Individuals in a car made inappropriate remarks to her while she walked to school from the Student Living Center. “I’m from a big city, but I was really shaken,” Weber said.

Incidents like the one Weber experienced Sunday are not uncommon in the Eastman community. Interaction with hostile Rochesterians was taken to an extreme this past January, when a group of students was mugged outside the SLC.

However, the notion that a man who could have been dangerous entered and interacted with students inside of the school building itself justifiably makes students, faculty and administrators squirm.

Unlike Juilliard in New York City, no turnstiles or security guards greet those who wish to enter Eastman’s main building. While this open door policy fosters a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, it makes an incident like the one that occurred Monday a very real possibility.

“The school is an open community,” said senior manager of UR Security Ed Schiedel. “However, this community is very close. The students look out for each other ? that’s why we’ve had so much success in the past,” he said.

Eastman may be accessible, but it certainly isn’t open to everyone 24 hours a day. A large step forward was made several years ago, when the building’s back doors on Swan Street were closed. Signs posted on these permanently closed doors alert those inside the building to keep them that way. Security has also tried to keep the doors leading into the Annex inaccessible to those coming from the outside.

By closing all of these doors ? despite the frustrating fact that there are “so many” of them, according to Eastman Dean and Director James Undercofler ? persons wishing to enter must come in through the main entrance on Gibbs Street. This stipulation often deters random people from walking into the building, but it is obviously not infallible.

A booth at the entrance of the main building, complete with card readers, has been vacant for as long as any of the present students can remember. The security office for the main building is barely visible, located about halfway through the Main Hall. As a result of a decision made back in December, security will soon switch their base to the front door area. This move should help discourage future unwanted guests from entering the building.

“I’m very concerned,” Undercofler said. “We’re reviewing security procedures to ensure the safety of all of our students.”

However, there are no plans to turn the card readers on during the day. They are currently activated when the building is closed ? 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. ? according to Associate Director of Administration David Strong. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., anyone wishing to enter the school is required to show their cards to the Ambassadors working at the front desk. Those without cards must sign in.

However, there isn’t much in place to prevent an incident like the one that happened Monday afternoon during regular hours.

“It’s not a big deal to pull out your card and swipe it,” Weber said. She is one of the students in favor of keeping the machines activated more often.

Freshman Laura Puzio agrees. “It’s so easy for anyone to come in here,” she said, referring to both the main building and the SLC down the street. “I really don’t feel safe here.”

“Security should definitely be more visible here,” said sophomore Angelique Jacob, who filed a police report last week after her wallet was stolen from the Dining Center in the SLC Thursday evening. “If there was a security officer in the booth at the front of the school, [Monday’s incident] never would have happened,” she said.

While security at the Sibley Library across the street has recently been revamped and camera systems in the SLC updated, Strong is aware that “security is an ongoing evaluation” and hopes to continuously improve Eastman’s security measures. Strong plans to meet with Security before the week is out, in order to discuss Monday’s incident. He meets with Phyllis Wade, Dean of Students and Betsy Marvin, Dean of Academic Affairs, monthly to discuss issues of security and safety that arise.

In addition, Strong hopes to see the advent of a Security and Safety Committee before the end of the semester. This committee would be comprised of staff, faculty, students and security representatives and would be headed by Associate Director of Facilities and Operations Lou Wiesner. Wiesner and Strong work closely together on a regular basis to ensure safety at Eastman. The committee would look at recent data from security reports to determine trends. Once those trends are recognized, Strong plans that this committee will “help make decisions about initiatives.” Students will be selected for this committee with the help of the Students Association and Graduate Students Association.

“We have coverage 24 hours a day ? we’ll certainly continue that coverage,” Strong said. The committee will up the quality of this coverage, examining “what we need to do to improve the safety.”

Hopefully, students will take the safety tips presented in the Safety Bulletin issued Tuesday to heart. Because security will never be inimitable, common sense and clearheadedness in compromising situations are every student’s best bet.

Weiss can be reached at jweiss@campustimes.org.

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