‘Jeff’ incident reignites Quinnipiac campus safety concerns

Trespasser accessed campus after officials installed security gates and guard booth worth more than $200K
A car passes the $150,000 guard booth Quinnipiac University officials constructed behind the College of Arts and Sciences buildings over the summer to monitor incoming traffic at the facilities entrance.
A car passes the $150,000 guard booth Quinnipiac University officials constructed behind the College of Arts and Sciences buildings over the summer to monitor incoming traffic at the facilities entrance.
Peyton McKenzie

The ease with which a trespasser gained access to Quinnipiac University’s Mount Carmel Campus in late September is reigniting concerns among some students about the efficacy of the university’s campus security practices.

The town of Hamden’s publicly available building and electrical permitting records reveal that, between late April and early May of this year, Quinnipiac spent more than $45,000 constructing three new gates on the Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses — one in the Harwood Gate Lot, one on Bobcat Way behind the Mountainview residence hall and one at the guard booth outside the Eastview residence hall.

University officials subsequently filed a fourth building permit in late September to install an $18,000 gate in Hogan Lot.

“The goal is to limit unauthorized entry onto campus,” wrote Tony Reyes, chief of Public Safety, in an Oct. 7 statement to The Chronicle. “However, the gate arms are also to help regulate and enforce parking rules at the respective lots.”

Excluding the motion-activated gate arm behind the Mountainview dorm building, Reyes said the new gates are tap-activated and accessible only via QCard.

“The gate arms at the Harwood, Facilities, and Eastview gates additionally have video cameras and intercom systems to communicate directly with the Public Safety Dispatcher who can give remote access,” Reyes wrote.

But despite the new gates, a man who identified himself only as “Jeff” entered multiple classrooms in the the Center for Communications and Computing and Engineering building on Sept. 28 to advertise tickets to a comedy show.

Although the Department of Public Safety partnered with the Hamden Police Department to arrest the scammer, officials have thus far been unable to identify or locate him.

Evidently, the ticket scheme is rather infamous at colleges across the Northeast — and another “Jeff” used the same ruse to con Quinnipiac students eight years ago.

But “Jeff” is far from the first uninvited guest to visit Quinnipiac.

Hamden police escorted a group of four unidentified men off the Mount Carmel Campus in early May for trespassing.

The men entered a residence hall in an apparent attempt to interview students for a social media show. The responding officer confiscated two bottles of liquor from the men but did not arrest them.

In April 2019, Public Safety officers intervened after a suspicious man entered the Carl Hansen Student Center to sell a white substance he claimed was “energy powder,” per Q30 News.

And six months earlier, in November 2018, an Uber driver allegedly followed a female student into a residence hall on the Mount Carmel Campus. Police arrested the driver for stalking, threatening and criminal trespassing but later dismissed the charges.

Each incident raised questions among students about how the individuals gained access to Quinnipiac’s campus — and, in the wake of the “Jeff” chaos, some students are again expressing concerns about the adequacy of the university’s security systems.

“‘Jeff’ was just selling tickets, which sucks for all the students who bought tickets,” said Sese Allerheiligen, a sophomore 3+1 software engineering major. “But ‘Jeff’ could have also just easily been malicious in some capacity.”

Although many students applauded the addition of new tap-activated gate arms, several expressed concerns about the campus’ accessibility on foot.

“While the gates will discourage people from driving onto campus, it’s also really easy to just walk on campus,” Allerheiligen said.

Julia Schnarr, a senior 3+1 film, television and media arts major, also said she was more concerned about pedestrians than drivers, namely because of the campus’ proximity to Sleeping Giant State Park.

“Personally, when people walk on campus, I think that’s a different story — like, if they park at the park across the street and then walk over,” Schnarr said. “I feel like that’s just something people could do, so I worry about that.”

But Christian Borchetta, a junior game design development major, also noted that the York Hill Campus remains relatively accessible by vehicle without a QCard — even with the new gate.

“You can park in Eastview or Westview lot without a pass,” Borchetta said. “You’re not going to go through a gate with anybody that can check your QCard.”

Beyond the new gates, Quinnipiac officials over the summer constructed a new guard booth behind the College of Arts and Sciences to accommodate increased traffic at the facilities entrance amid ongoing South Quad construction.

Reyes said the new guard shack, which building permits indicate cost approximately $150,000 to construct, has enabled Public Safety officers to better “regulate entry” to the CAS and Hilltop parking lots.

“The booth is staffed full-time and is equipped with audio/video surveillance, all of which help improve campus security,” Reyes wrote of the new booth.

However, several students pointed out that the officers who man the guard stations across campus often inconsistently — or, at the very least, hastily — verify drivers’ parking passes and university IDs.

“I’ve had times where I go to the booth and they made everyone in the car pull out their QCards, and I’ve had times where I go to the booth and they just wave it through because they recognize the driver,” Allerheiligen said, calling the university’s security procedures “superficial.”

JJ Darconte, a sophomore film, television and media arts major, said she too reconsidered the university’s approach to its own safety policies following the “Jeff” incident.

“It made me realize how I’ve never had to show my QCard unless it’s one or two specific guards,” Darconte said. “It made me more upset to realize how many of the Public Safety officers don’t care about the cars coming onto campus.”

And they were far from the only two students who expressed concerns about the details of the “Jeff” incident — other students questioned why “Jeff” was able to access an academic building so easily.

“The idea that he was in buildings was definitely concerning,” Schnarr said. “It did make me question campus security.”

Allerheiligen proposed making Quinnipiac’s academic buildings accessible only via QCard.

“The buildings have the capacity to lock and restrict themselves with QCards,” they said. “For as annoying as that would be, I do think that that could be helpful in stopping people who aren’t supposed to get in from getting in.”

Even some concerned parents took to social media in the aftermath of the recent on-campus trespassing incident to suggest implementing stricter building security protocols.

“Maybe it’s time to consider entrance to on campus buildings be by (QCard) scan only,” one Quinnipiac parent, Christine Clark, commented on The Chronicle’s Instagram post about ‘Jeff.’ “This ‘harmless’ scammer could just as easily be someone with intent to cause physical harm to our students.”

But not everyone said they believed Quinnipiac officials would err on the side of caution.

“I think they’re not going to change until something actually forces them to,” Darconte said.

CORRECTION 10/11: An earlier version of this report inaccurately described Quinnipiac University’s Mount Carmel Campus as a closed campus.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Quinnipiac Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *