Student Trapped for Eight Hours in Broome Laundry Room

GLS sophomore Hunter Major found herself locked in Broome’s laundry room for eight hours due to the lockset failing.

NYU’s Broome Residential College, where a student was locked in their laundry room overnight. (Julia Moses)

GLS sophomore Hunter Major hosted some friends in her Broome Street Residential College dorm on Thursday night. The group ordered pizza, danced and was together until about 1:00 a.m. Once her guests left, Major gathered up the pizza boxes piled up on her table and took them to the recycling and laundry room located steps away from her suite. As she flattened boxes, the door suddenly closed and locked. Major — expecting to be away from her suite for only a few minutes — had not taken her phone.

This marked the beginning of an eight-hour stretch that Major would spend locked in the room. Throughout the night, she would repeatedly yell, “I’m Hunter Major. I live in room 810. I’m locked in.”

When she attempted to turn the handle from the inside, the latch would not respond. According to University Spokesperson John Beckman, the lockset on these doors was designed so that people can still open them from the inside even when locked with a key; in this case, the lockset failed.

As her desperation grew, Major thought of other ways to escape, such as flooding the room or creating smoke to set off the alarm, but neither option was feasible. Major also considered crawling through the vent to another floor but didn’t want to fall.

“I’m usually the most prepared person,” Major said. “If I had my handbag or anything we would get out of here [and] this would be solved, but I did not have any of that on me.”

Major spent the next hours alternating between sleeping, shoving torn pizza boxes under the door to attempt to send a signal, pressing the buttons on the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, banging and shouting by the door and listening for any sounds of building residents waking up to begin their Fridays.

Eventually, she heard the sound of a cart rattling, and a cleaning lady discovered her trapped inside the room. According to Major, the woman did not leave her until a maintenance worker came and used a tool to open the door. The first question Major asked after getting out was “What time is it?” The answer was 9:13 a.m.

Major said she lost track of time while brainstorming ways to get out.

“So much of time is equated with success and getting things done,” Major said. “Because there was no success, it was just me trying a bunch of things and it being a lot of trial and error. My sense of time was completely messed up.”

The morning after the incident, Major sent an email describing the ordeal to several university administrators she has encountered through her work as a student activist. She and her family have not ruled out pursuing legal action.

Beckman said that the university has checked all similar locksets in the hall and plans to speak with Broome’s landlord to see if there are alternative locksets to prevent such an incident in the future.

“This incident, which occurred in one of our leased residence halls, is both regrettable and rare,” Beckman said. “No one should have to experience what this student experienced.”

Major has been in contact with several university administrators, and a wellness counselor reached out to her the morning after the incident to offer support.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 4, 2019, print edition. Email Emily Mason at [email protected]

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