By Charlotte Francoli and Lauren Khine, Summer Times Staff Writers
Despite the luxurious, college-like education at Phillips Exeter Summer, officials and teachers agree there are flaws in the community. Incidents including heckling by car drivers, occasional theft, and usage of racial and homophobic slurs have been recently reported, as well as an unconfirmed report of shoplifting on the student activity mall trip on June 7.
Exeter Summer Director Russell Weatherspoon announced at Assembly Monday that the previous Saturday night, July 6, “one student called another a homophobic slur.” The consequences, if any, were not reported, but Mr. Weatherspoon urged students to “please speak with respect and be kind at all times.”
Recently a student from Nigeria living in Amen Hall, who wishes to remain anonymous, was walking to Walgreens with some of her friends. During the walk, the student recalled: “a car started to slow down and a white male located in the back of a car yelled a racial slur––the n-word” at her. Her immediate thought was to focus on the plate number and record it, as Campus Safety had recommended. But unfortunately, the driver had driven away before the student could react. The student was shocked and tried to calm down to avoid a panic attack. She thought the car would “come back and do something worse, but luckily it didn’t.” This happened near High St. on June 2. She felt the situation was aggressive because of the way she was yelled at, and the context of the racially charged word used.
At first, the student did not tell any adults about the incident because it was the first racial slur she had been subject to. She warned the other girls in her dorm to always “leave as a group and never alone.” Her dorm advisers overheard the conversation and decided to notify Campus Safety and police about the situation. The Amen Hall advisors, Carla Collins and Seychelle Mikofsky spoke with her; her friends also supported the student.
A police officer contacted the Exeter Summer student and the case is now under investigation. The student and her friend, who was also present at the scene, were asked to go to the Summer School Office and give an informal statement. The police assured them that if the accused person is found, it will become a formal statement and the case will go to court.
“I feel uncomfortable walking out,” the affected student confessed. “Especially as a young black lady, it feels like I am putting myself out there and [there are] just a bunch of inconveniences.” According to her, girls have “gotten barked at from drivers,” which hints at a possibly hostile environment people are subject to.
When the news about the student’s incident circulated, many wondered about their safety. Paul Gravel, Director of Campus Safety, stated that similar situations “don’t happen very often.” But he said, “During summer it is easier to just shout something out of the window.” For security reasons, he suggested that students should cross the street in groups so “the drivers get less annoyed.” He also stated that “very few departments investigate these cases but Exeter fortunately does,” citing police department collaboration.
Campus Safety obtained new information concerning the case on July 9, including possible video from a security camera. “There might be, so we’ll have the victim review the video and then continue the investigation,” Mr. Gravel said. Andrew Pixley, Safety Operations Manager of Campus Safety, mentioned possible usage of Walgreen security videos.
Campus Safety was not aware of the shoplifting incident during the mall trip, nor about a student using a homophobic slur offensively toward another student. “That didn’t make it to Campus Safety,” Mr. Gravel explained.
In terms of advice for Exeter Summer students, Mr. Gravel said, “If we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything.” Mr. Pixley strongly recommended immediately reporting incidents to Campus Safety and securing all valuables. Officers find taking pictures of laptop serial numbers and car license plates helpful in investigations, and “at least three patrol officers on duty…inform each other about incidents,” Mr. Gravel said. Further elaborating, Mr. Pixley estimated response times within seconds, as calls are prioritized based on severity.
Should any students encounter safety issues, Campus Safety suggests calling 603 777-4444.