NYU Campus Safety to increase security after several students assaulted

After another student was attacked on campus on Feb. 25, the department will add security officers, cameras and lights east of Washington Square Park. A suspect in a similar string of assaults was arrested on March 2.

Kristian Burt and Rachel Cohen

A video from CCTV video released by the NYPD Crime Stoppers Program. From above, a white-haired individual wearing a light blue short-sleeve shirt, dark-colored slim pants is walking.
At least seven NYU students were assaulted last month. The New York City Police Department released security camera footage of a man who allegedly assaulted some of the students as well as seven Asian women throughout Lower Manhattan on Feb. 27. (Video via NYPD)

NYU Campus Safety will install more security cameras east of Washington Square Park, add lighting to the scaffolding of university buildings and increase police presence around university buildings following a string of assaults on campus, according to an email on Wednesday from campus safety head Fountain Walker.

The announcement comes after the New York City Police Department said Tuesday, March 1, that a man with blond hair and a light complexion assaulted seven Asian women in two hours throughout the East Village, Gramercy Park, Nolita and Midtown on Feb. 27. A suspect, 28-year-old Steven Zajonc, was arrested on Wednesday and is facing seven counts of hate crime assault and hate crime attempted assault, as well as seven counts of aggravated harassment and harassment.

On NYU’s Washington Square campus, four students were attacked by a passerby between Feb. 7 and Feb. 15. University spokesperson John Beckman said in a statement to WSN that the university does not have any security footage of the assaults. Two victims claimed that Campus Safety mishandled the reporting of their incidents.

Two more additional victims, who were assaulted on Feb. 2 and Feb. 14, then came forward about the department’s inadequate response. Most victims described the suspect as a white male with blonde hair. However, one of the victims, a CAS senior, described the assailant differently.

[Read more: 2 more students allege NYU mishandled campus attacks]

Another student was struck by a man while walking on West Fourth Street on Feb. 25, according to the recent Campus Safety email. The victim described the assailant as male-presenting with blond hair, but with a beard and shorter than the suspects described by other victims. 

Walker acknowledged that most — if not all — of the incidents were connected. He said the department is assuming that anti-Asian violence played a role in the assaults and has contacted the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force. 

WSN has confirmed that three of the six victims in the NYU assaults are Asian.

“We view these occurrences with the utmost seriousness and will continue and heighten our vigilance,” Walker wrote in the Wednesday email. “We want these incidents to end immediately. We are conscious of the unease that Asian members of the NYU community may be feeling right now; we stand united in full support of them, and want them to know they have our support and that we are determined to make them feel secure on our campus.”

Walker said officers will actively respond to similar incidents by flagging student reports. The department is also reviewing its alert system in order to quickly notify the NYU community. 

SPS senior AJ Sun, who posted about his attack on social media on Feb. 15, previously said Campus Safety did not take his report seriously. He has since posted other incidents on his account to inform students. In response to the recent email, Sun said he is hopeful that the new safety initiatives will help protect other students from being assaulted. 

[Read more: Assaulted student says he was dismissed by NYU Campus Safety]

“It’s definitely positive, as they’re sending emails faster now and they’re taking some immediate actions on improving campus safety,” Sun said. “It shows that they have realized they made some mistakes before and decided to do better.”

One of the victims, a Gallatin sophomore, said she is upset another assault occurred. She said despite Campus Safety’s response, she feels the department is still not transparent with students.

“Their plans to make the campus safer sound good if they actually happen, but some of them, like five and six, are very vague,” the Gallatin sophomore said. “I lost some trust in the system when my own report wasn’t submitted, and I wonder how many other times this has occurred. I would prefer more explicit plans, such as sending a confirmation along with resources to students to post a report, or widening the guidelines that qualify for a cautionary email.”

After viewing the video of Zajonc, Sun said that he could not confirm whether the arrested suspect was his attacker. Another victim said Zajonc was not the perpetrator of their assault. 

All assaults are under investigation by Campus Safety and the NYPD.

Lauren Ashe contributed reporting. Contact Kristian Burt at [email protected] and Rachel Cohen at [email protected].