Jeanne Clery was finishing up the spring semester of her first year at Lehigh in 1986 when she was murdered by another student.
On the 30th anniversary of Jeanne Clery’s death, Lehigh continues to work to make the campus safer than it has been in the past.
According to an LA Times article, on April 5, 1986, Clery went back to her room in Stoughton House in Lower Centennials. Another Lehigh student, Joseph Henry, a sophomore from Newark, New Jersey, arrived at Stoughton later that night — and entered the building. Students did not use ID card security systems then, and it was common for students to prop the door to their residence hall open so their friends could come and go.
When Henry entered the dorm, he tried the knob to Clery’s door and it opened. Clery had left her bedroom unlocked for her roommate to come home. She heard someone rummaging through her belongings, and then Henry violently attacked her, according to the article. He beat her face and body, repeatedly slashing her neck with broken glass, raping and sodomizing her, and strangling her to death. She was found in her room by another student at 11 a.m. the following morning.
Henry confessed to his friends, who turned him in to the police. He was convicted of first-degree murder and given the death penalty, a sentence that was later thrown out in lieu of spending life in prison. He’s still behind bars today.
Clery’s parents, Connie and Howard Clery, founded the Clery Center for Security on Campus, a nonprofit organization with a mission to create safer college campuses. They were alarmed that more information was not provided to students and their families about crimes that occurred on campus and that there were no consistent laws requiring campus authorities to notify them about such incidents.
The Clerys worked to facilitate safer educational environments and make safety information available. Within just a few years of founding their organization, Congress approved the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, which was later renamed the Jeanne Clery Act in her honor.
The act mandates all colleges and universities that receive federal funding must publicly publish their security policies, a crime log, an annual crime report and communicate emergency warnings to students and campus employees of crimes that might pose a threat. It also guarantees certain basic rights to campus sexual assault victims and requires the Department of Education to collect and disseminate campus safety statistics.
Lehigh’s housing website boasts an “A” campus security rating by Reader’s Digest, citing a full, state-accredited police force with a brand new station, 24-hour cruiser and bike patrols, an emergency telephone “blue light” system, TRACS shuttle buses, walking escorts and a magnetic card system to control access to residence halls.
But despite all this, some students worry it’s not enough — that vulnerabilities in Lehigh’s security still exist and that they compromise the safety of students.
Caitlin Grady, ’17, recalled being a Lower Centennials resident in 2013 when an unknown man was seen lurking in her building, Stevens House and other first-year halls. He was spotted in the hallway, in the laundry room, in a women’s bathroom stall, and on one occasion, Grady awoke to him standing over her bed in her room. He gained access to the building by waiting at the door asking students to swipe him in, referencing common first names as people he knew that lived there.
“I never really felt 100 percent safe because (the residence halls) were so close to off campus with no real security,” Grady said.
Emma Wald, ’17, lived in Stevens House her freshman year and said she remembers seeing the stranger in her building.
“It’s definitely scary that he found his way in more than once,” Wald said. “Part of it falls on students just being careless, but it shows that the system’s not perfect and that’s kind of concerning.”
Grady said the Lehigh University Police Department apprehended the unknown man.
“Anyone can wait by a dorm door until someone who lives there goes in or comes out,” said Dabney Brice, ’18, a Gryphon in Warren Square C. “Because people feel this campus is safe, they don’t really think about who they’re letting in . . . It’s not that difficult to get into a dorm on this campus.”
Brice said Residence Life staff receive extensive preparation on what to do in emergency situations of all sorts. She said she and the other Gryphons were told the Clery story during their training period.
In situations that could jeopardize people’s safety, a Gryphon’s protocol is to call the Lehigh University Police Department. Brice said despite how safe campus can feel, she warns all her residents not to allow anyone into the buildings without proper verification.