Students concerned as NYU reports three gropings in two days

On Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the NYU Department of Campus Safety informed students of three sexual assault incidents.

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Shaina Ahmed

On Tuesday, August 31, at the northeast corner of East Eighth Street and University Pl, a person driving a scooter groped a female NYU student. Since then, two other female NYU students have been sexually assaulted by a passing driver on a scooter. (Staff Photo by Shaina Ahmed)

By Rachel Cohen and Rachel Fadem

A person on a two-wheeled motorized vehicle groped three female NYU students in the last two days, according to alerts sent from NYU’s Department of Campus Safety to the university community. NYU Campus Safety refused WSN’s request for comment. 

The first student reported a sexual assault on Aug. 30 — where the perpetrator approached her from behind and grabbed her breast — at approximately 3:35 p.m. on East Eighth Street and University Place, according to an Aug. 31 email. The second email from Sep. 1 detailed two similar incidents occurring near Gramercy Green Hall and at the intersection of Broadway and East 8th Street. None of the victims reported any physical injuries.

“The University is troubled by the recent spate of criminal incidents involving women being groped by a passing scooter or motorcycle driver, and we are concerned for the women who were attacked,” university spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “We want these offensive attacks on women to end immediately. Both Campus Safety and city law enforcement officials are taking the matter seriously and investigating.”

From 2014 to 2019, NYU reported roughly one fondling every 31 days on the Washington Square campus. In the spring semester of 2021, there have been three prior fondlings — one in March and two in April

The gender of the suspect is unknown, but they were wearing dark clothing with a sporty black motorcycle helmet covering their face. 

Until the suspect is apprehended, we advise that members of the NYU community stand a few feet back from the curb on the sidewalk when waiting to cross the street and that they be attentive to scooters and similar vehicles that seem to be traveling unusually close to the curb and pedestrians,” the Sept. 1 email reads.

Gallatin first-year Grace Ross said these recent groping incidents should not be dismissed — and that NYU must make a formal statement to the community that they do not condone sexual assault.

“It can be super traumatizing to be harassed by a stranger and by a non-stranger as a woman,” Ross said. “It sucks because we’re the victims and we’re the ones that are having to go out of our way in order to protect ourselves when men should leave us alone and not be pigs. It’s not just from the point of view that there was a woman who was harassed, but also there was a man that did the harassment — this needs to be stopped.”

Students said that while they generally feel safe on campus, the safety alerts are a reminder to be more aware of their surroundings — especially those who are female-presenting. CAS first-year Alicia Krueger said that the alerts made her realize how frequently sexual assault occurs.

“It’s easy to think you have everything under control,” Krueger said. “Everyone knows that you have to keep your head on your shoulders and be aware in the city. I do feel safe, but you have to be careful.”

Tisch first-year Talia Kai agreed with Krueger, noting the importance of remaining vigilant while walking in the city.

“A level of hyper-awareness is instilled upon you as a woman from a very young age,” Kai said. “It’s very unfair, but it’s a common practice. If I don’t feel safe, I technically don’t blame it on NYU because we don’t have a campus.”

Kai also mentioned that these frequent emails can have an impact on students’ mental health. However, a federal statute, the Clery Act, requires NYU to notify its student body of all serious security incidents that occur within campus boundaries.

“It’s really heavy and definitely concerning,” Kai said. “I appreciate the transparency in the emails, but getting the alerts all the time can be triggering and it’s upsetting. It’s hard to casually see on your phone and dismiss it.” 

NYU Campus Safety asks those who observed these incidents or can provide information to help in an investigation to contact the department at 212-998-2222.

Contact Rachel Cohen at [email protected] and Rachel Fadem at [email protected]