Claflin students cite unease after dorm break-ins

Mar 20, 2015

From reports by Keegan Franklin, Jabari Kafele, Brandi Threatt and Gibson Najee

Claflin University students say there may be reason for concern after dorm break-ins following their return from spring break.
Several female students told a magistrate the Claflin University campus has been terrorized by a man who broke into their rooms.
Identified as a South Carolina State University student, Kabaris Daniels, 19, of Columbia, was taken into custody on March 19 on Claflin's campus and a day later charged with two counts of first-degree assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, two counts of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary.
After hearing from two female Claflin students and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Leroy Durant, Orangeburg County Magistrate Sam Daily determined Daniels is a threat to the community and ordered him held without bond.
Durant told the court the campus had been on edge for several weeks, though some Claflin students say they were unaware of any potential danger from an intruder.
 "After finding out what actually happened, I was speechless. I didn't believe it," junior Michael Jenkins said. "I couldn't imagine if that was my sister or my girlfriend. I would go crazy. He must've been on something, ain't no way . I just don't understand."
Jenkins, who resides off campus, said he heard about the situation and wasn't clear on what actually happened. He thought it was a brawl or fight that took place, referencing the word "attack."
Freshman Dasia Dukes, who does not live in either of the dorms that were entered, believes the university needs to understand the difference between the personal freedom of students and their safety.
"This is really sad. I am new in this area and found it to [be] pretty safe and somewhere I needed to be to continue my education," she said. "I have grown to love Claflin, however they don't need to confuse our personal freedom and space with our safety."
Sharitta McMichael, a sophomore residing in the Student Residential Center North where the breakins/attacks occurred, said,  "It saddens to know that such activity goes on in a residential hall that I stay in . I'm from out of state so it's not like I can just up and go stay with a relative until things cease."
Imani Davis, a senior, said she did not particularly feel terrorized by the break-ins. Rather she felt "uneasy" in believing the university was withholding information from residents.
"I feel Claflin in general tries to put on a façade that everything is okay and not share what's going on with its students until it's too late," she said. "If we were made aware earlier of [the] suspect or something possibly going on, we could of prevented multiple incidents from happening and recurring. But when you're unaware you don't know to take precaution."
Davis also said the university isn't doing much to beef up security after the incidents.
"I definitely think we should have more officers on campus, even at night, because the RAs get off at 12. So maybe from 1 to 4 there should be someone in there or at least an officer patrolling around campus to feel protected," she said.
Another senior, Brandy Mack, said she, too, was uncomfortable with the university's flow of information.
"After the first incident, they should of been having meetings [and] sending emails letting everybody know," she said. "I didn't know anything about it until the day he got arrested."
"I feel like the situation could have been handled way better," Mack said. "From what I heard, the guy had broken into three dorms in one night."
Mack said the university should have taken action after the first dorm was broken into.
"My thing is, after the first incident or after he broke into the second dorm, why were there no police officers on campus? Things could have been handled completely different."
Doward Hunter, a junior, said he does not feel threatened because he lives off campus, but his friends who live on campus did worry about danger.
"I think victims learned how to prevent themselves from being victimized through this experience," Hunter said.
"With the addition of more campus security guards, I feel confident in the ability of Claflin's security task force," he said. "This incident was definitely a learning experience. Of course security did not get everything right the first time, but I think they learned how to handle these situations better now."
Students and staff are encouraged to remain vigilant and report all suspicious people to the public safety department by calling extension 5444.

Reports by The Times and Democrat contributed to this story.

President Tisdale's letter
outlines security upgrades 

The following letter was sent by President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale to Claflin email accounts on March 31, 2015. It is titled "Safety and Security Enhancements." 

I write to inform you that we have installed several new surveillance cameras, bringing to 20 the number of surveillance cameras in operation.  By April 15, 2015, the University also will have a total of 14 call boxes in another demonstration of our commitment to enhance the safety and security of the campus.  These additional safety devices, along with the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol or SNAP, also strengthen our resolve to ensure Claflin University is a safe environment for high quality living and learning and are consistent with a new focus on campus safety and security that was articulated during my Matriculation Day address on September 4, 2014.

Please note the following:

Surveillance Cameras
Surveillance of public areas is intended to deter crime and assist in protecting the safety and property of the University. You can be assured that the University will adhere to guidelines that address safety and security needs while at the same time respecting individual privacy of those attending, working or visiting Claflin University.

Emergency Call Boxes
The University is increasing the number of emergency call boxes around campus so that students, faculty, staff and visitors can more conveniently contact public safety in case of an emergency.

Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) Program
This program is designed to enhance safety relative to movement from parking lots to residence halls or offices.  Any member of the Claflin University family may use the service by calling extension 5444. The service will be provided from 7 p.m. to midnight on Monday through Friday. 

All questions regarding safety and security measures should be addressed to Mr. Steve Pearson, director of Public Safety at extension 5434 or Dr. Leroy A. Durant, vice president for Student Development and Services at extension 5341 during normal hours of operation.  During evening hours and weekends, contact the Office of Public Safety at (803) 535-5444.
As you are aware, the security and safety of our campus will be sustained and enhanced by remaining alert and watchful and reporting suspicious or unusual behavior. Your cooperation and support are greatly appreciated.

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