Taylor House is a dorm where many first-year students reside on Lehigh University's campus. A man trespassed into Taylor House on Feb. 5. (Benson Xue/B&W Staff)

Suspicious person reported in Taylor House


The Lehigh University Police Department sent a HawkWatch alert Feb. 5, asking students to report any sightings of 39-year-old Joseph C. Schultze, a suspicious person sighted on campus. 

While LUPD said there were no known threats to students’ safety, they advised students against letting unknown people into buildings or leaving belongings unattended.

The alert included a screenshot from a video of Schultze taken inside Taylor House.

Olivia Freundlich, ‘27, said she and a friend were up early Monday morning and heard knocking on a nearby window.

Unable to see who was outside, they assumed it was a student trying to get in and opened the door.

When Schultze quickly entered, Freundlich and her friend realized he did not appear to be affiliated with Lehigh.

She said Schultze claimed his truck broke down nearby, so he walked by Taylor.

Once inside, Schultze made prank calls, played ping-pong and performed a freestyle rap while insisting that Freundlich and her friend use their phones to record him. 

During this interaction, Schultze did not tell either of them his name and only referred to himself as “Chinchilla.”

“He wanted to go on an adventure, I guess,” Freundlich said. “He was like, ‘Let’s go to El Jefe’s,’ and we’re like, ‘No, we’re gonna stay here.’”

Freundlich and her friend told Schultze their phones were nearly dead, and he offered to grab chargers from his vehicle.

They saw an opportunity to get Schultze out of the building so they agreed and left him locked outside. 

Freundlich called LUPD around 2:30 a.m. to report the incident. An alert was issued later that day.

LUPD Chief Jason Schiffer said, upon investigation, the department discovered a potential connection between Schultze and a stolen vehicle from New York seen parked on campus.

When LUPD contacted the Broome County Sheriff’s Department, they confirmed Schultze was a possible suspect.

During the time Schultze was on campus, a disturbance and possible theft at the University Center construction-site were reported. LUPD believes he could be linked to these incidents.

“It was like a series of events that we learned through investigation that began to potentially connect this individual,” Schiffer said. 

Students had mixed reactions to the HawkWatch alert.

One of the Taylor Gryphons, Nathaniel Snyder, ‘26, said his residents were unconcerned about the alert and even made light of the incident in their hall group chat.

However, other students were worried.

Klaira Zakarian, ‘27, said she was anxious to hear Schultze was inside Taylor.

“I think that it’s dangerous to just let random people in or to just accept the fact that they’re able to come in randomly,” Zakarian said.

Snyder said that to keep residence halls safe, residents are advised to lock their doors and avoid letting strangers inside. However, they may not always follow those guidelines.

Tahmina Raisa, ‘25, said as a Gryphon in McClintic-Marshall House, she sees many students ignore security precautions within residence halls.

“There’s been occurrences which could have been avoided if students locked their doors,” Raisa said.

As an open campus, buildings are the only points of restricted access on Lehigh.

Raisa said added safety measures within dorms, such as automatic locks on doors, could cause students to take precautions beyond simple encouragements that are sometimes brushed aside. 

Some newer residence halls with electronic access to each dorm room have automatic locks, but older buildings may still use a lock and key.

While students like Freundlich and Zakarian enjoy Lehigh’s connection to the Southside, they also agreed that additional measures could be taken to ensure security.

Schiffer said LUPD wants to eventually offer students a way to swipe into buildings using their phones. Students would have the security of a constant lock and the convenience of carrying only their phone instead of a key or their student ID card. 

The university tries to balance security and convenience, Schiffer said, but the two are not always compatible. 

“We want to reduce the inconvenience as much as possible while still having a sense of security,” Schiffer said. 

He also said students should feel free to contact LUPD anytime they feel unsafe or suspect someone unaffiliated with Lehigh is in a residence hall.

Students can call or text LUPD anytime. They can also use the HawkWatch app’s emergency blue light feature to call a dispatcher while sending LUPD the caller’s exact location.

While most academic buildings are locked during the evenings and weekends, residential buildings are locked 24/7. When locked, both academic and residential buildings are only accessible with a university ID card.

Schiffer said current safety measures reduce risk, but LUPD would be open to additional policies to ensure students’ safety.

He also said that part of the responsibility falls on students to use their discretion and follow safety procedures.

“It does take members of that community to make sure that they don’t let people in or to call us if they have any suspicion that somebody shouldn’t be where they are.”

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