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October 3, 2007 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Is my college being negligent about the safety of my housemate and myself?

Recently, I filed a report with university police about my housemate who has made violent threats on another housemate and me. The school is holding a disciplinary hearing on Thursday about him, and has called the other housemate and I to testify. They notified the housemate who made the threats as well, informing him that we would be testifying against him.

Because of this, when I came home, I spent much of the night with my bedroom door barricaded, in fear for my own safety, and stayed awake much of the night. He did not come home until six AM, though I was worried (with cause) as to what he would do. Has the school endangered my housemate and myself by revealing our identities?
posted by SansPoint to Law & Government (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was worried (with cause) as to what he would do

With cause? Your door locks. He avoided the house, and then left you alone when he arrived at 6am. You had no cause for alarm.

Everyone has the right to confront their accuser. The school has done nothing wrong here.
posted by toxic at 8:53 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My door actually doesn't lock.
posted by SansPoint at 8:55 AM on October 3, 2007

Assuming you're all grown ups (over 18), the university is not mommy and daddy. The university is your landlord. When roommates get into a fight, most landlords try to avoid getting caught in the middle of things. If you believe that this person is a threat, call the cops, not the college.

And, like toxic said, everyone has a right to confront his or her accuser.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:56 AM on October 3, 2007

under our system of law, what did you expect them to do differently?
posted by HuronBob at 8:57 AM on October 3, 2007

Do you live in campus housing?
posted by Eringatang at 8:59 AM on October 3, 2007

So you think the university should have said to him, "You're going to have to defend yourself against... something." Because they wouldn't even be able to say it was housing-related, or it would have been obvious who the accusers were.
posted by smackfu at 8:59 AM on October 3, 2007

From a practical standpoint, I'd say so, but this is common with police reports (at least municipal police reports). That's why people don't like filing them! If anything's to be done, or charges filed, or a hearing scheduled, the accused will know who said what.

It's scary, I know, but you'll be thankful when due process and the right to face your accuser comes around your way.

I knew a sociopath that was capable of acts of violence, and when his roommate stood up to him for not paying rent, the sociopath jimmied the lock on his roommate's door and threatened him with a knife while he still lay in bed, in the dark of night. Be careful is all I'm saying.
posted by letahl at 9:00 AM on October 3, 2007

Response by poster: We live off campus. I filed the report with campus police after talking to a counselor on campus.
posted by SansPoint at 9:02 AM on October 3, 2007

What did you expect them to do? Enroll you in the witness protection program?

Even if they didn't reveal your identities up front, once the substance of the complaint becomes clear, he is bound to know who dropped the dime on him.

I don't mean to trivialize your concerns. I hear that you don't feel safe around this guy. But taking steps to protect yourself is your responsibility as well as the school's.

If you don't feel safe, go stay with a friend until the hearing.

At the hearing, you can express any concerns you may have about your safety, and ask what the school will do to help keep you and other students safe.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2007

If this person is this violent, you should involve the police, not just the university.
posted by BackwardsCity at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

BackwardsCity has it exactly right. Colleges have zero power when it comes to actual crime.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:05 AM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

The school did exactly what it was supposed to do...call the police if you feel threatened...I've had friends who've been there, just be cautious and don't think twice about 911...the police are there to deal with such things.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:09 AM on October 3, 2007

Even if your school withheld your identities, they would presumably at least tell your housemate what the disciplinary hearing is about. Unless he goes around threatening people all the time, it wouldn't take him long to figure out who had filed charges.

If you're really scared of him, you need to file an actual police report, and see about getting a restraining order.
posted by rtha at 9:14 AM on October 3, 2007

People are confused here.

I think that the poster lives off campus, and called the University Police for enforcement. Usually these police will have some enforcement authority for a few blocks around the campus. Check your state or local laws for details.

Having said that, the town cops have total enforcement power. Call them.

The University is not being negligent. You live in off-campus housing which they likely have no control over. They therefore likely do not owe you a duty of due care. Thus, they likely cannot be negligent in meeting a non-existent duty. If you are going to sue, contact a local attorney. This is not legal advice and I am not your lawyer.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 AM on October 3, 2007

Additionally, the University has a due process duty to allow the person the right to confront their accusers as well. He may feel differently regarding the alleged threats. Our system of law (and the university's disciplinary system) allows him the right to find out what the basis of the charges are and then to ask you questions about the alleged threats in order to demonstrate to the fact-finding body that no such threats actually occured.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:34 AM on October 3, 2007

You're a guy? Time to man up, kid. If you really feel threatened, call the cops. The real cops. But talking about your university being negligent? It's not their responsibility to watch out for your safety off campus. Sorry. And part of allegations like yours is that you have to back them up and confront your roommate. Sitting scared in your room and whining on AskMe is not the answer.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on October 3, 2007

Uh, whining is not the answer even if you're not a guy.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2007

I'm curious as to how other posters would react if you were female. Being a dude does not mean that you should respond to threats of physical violence with bravado.

Nor does being concerned for your safety equal whining.

If you're in university-sponsored/subsidized/run housing, off-campus, going to the university was the logical thing to do. They did have to inform your housemate why he was being called to a disciplinary hearing, but they should have warned you they were talking to him, and advised you on how to deal with him in the meantime.

If your housing has nothing to do with the university officially, you should've called the police. If your roommate issues further threats, or if the university doesn't do anything useful, I think you should still.
posted by moonlet at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2007 [4 favorites]

Back in the (long-ago) day, I lived in an apartment off-campus with three other women. Long story short, one of the women had a boyfriend and they threatened the rest of us when we asked that he start paying a share of the rent (he had been staying at the apartment non-stop for months by then; we didn't care, we just wanted him to pay). Things started going missing, he would casually mention past fights he had been in and won, and we got scared. We called our landlord, who told us to call the police. We called the police (local, not university) and an officer came out within the hour to take a report and the officer even talked to our landlord and had him come out right away to change the locks and start eviction proceedings against the roommate. The next day, a different police officer accompanied the roommate as she cleaned out her stuff. Two of us had boyfriends who took turns staying over for a few weeks until things died down.

We ended up getting a restraining order against both of them. It was all awful, but looking back I think we did the right thing.
posted by cooker girl at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2007

I'm curious as to how other posters would react if you were female. Being a dude does not mean that you should respond to threats of physical violence with bravado.

Well, this female, and my two female roommates (off-campus housing at Penn), went to both the landlord and the West Philadelphia police about our fourth roommate's abusive cokehead boyfriend. We would have liked to have him arrested, but since the roommate/girlfriend wouldn't file a police report against him, we settled for having him banned from entering our house.

The cops were very nice.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:54 AM on October 3, 2007

Echoing all the others who say this is a job for the local cops, not your university. You aren't in university housing, so they can't exactly kick him out of your place. And they don't have detaining power, so they can't throw him in jail. Even if they did for some crazy reason immediately kick him out of school, why would that prevent him from continuing to live in your shared home? I'm surprised the university did as much as it did. What else would you expect from them?

Call police, get restraining order.
posted by Anonymous at 11:17 AM on October 3, 2007

Is my college being negligent about the safety of my housemate and myself?

As of yet? No.

Precursor to negligence is the existence of duty. What duty do you think they owe to you in this situation and from where do you think this duty arises?
posted by dios at 11:51 AM on October 3, 2007

If you call the police, the housemate may be charged with criminal threatening. You can also ask for a temporary restraining order. The University may have legal services to help you.

The Uni may have a student conduct code that the housemate has broken, thus the hearing. I don't see a reason or responsibility for the Uni to protect you in off campus housing. Meanwhile , take the threat seriously. Is housemate mentally ill? Uni may have mental health services.
posted by theora55 at 12:30 PM on October 3, 2007

Yeah, you know what, I disagree with almost everyone here. I think what your university did was crappy policy. There should be policy in place to protect the anonymity of the threatened party. I mean, legally, would they be able to cover their asses if last night, your roommate had barged in and broke a chair over your back? They may have been following the rules, but if they were, the rules are terrible.

And don't listen to the testosterone-junkies who are telling you to suck it up and act like a man. If fewer people went around swaggering and grunting "act like a man", fewer people would get threatened in the first place.
posted by Lieber Frau at 2:12 PM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

What was the altercation about? Have you been menaced since it all came to light? ...No, the guy just didn't come home.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that all the petty, vindictive and fucking gutless 'revenge' you're planning to inflict might be a bad idea.

Is it just me or do 'victims' (as in guys that got picked on at school) seem to make particularly cruel and vicious aggressors whenever a sly opportunity presents?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:43 AM on October 4, 2007

Just basing my assumptions on the guess that if it were of a serious nature you should and certainly would have involved the Police.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:44 AM on October 4, 2007

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