By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 25, 2002
Apparently it's nothing new.
Flashers, masturbators and other sexual perpetrators have been coming to the Main Library to test out pickup lines, pleasure themselves and expose their genitalia for years.
In the library during the last month alone, there have been three incidents of masturbation, one of indecent exposure and two cases of a man asking students to sketch their feet, one of which was coupled with masturbation.
Due to these recent incidents ¸ and common unwanted sexual advances ¸ some students are becoming hesitant to study at, or even go to, the Main Library.
"It was on the fourth floor. This older guy, he must have been in his ╬40s, kept on walking up to all the girls and talking to us," said aerospace engineering freshman Ariel Marsh. "All the girls left and then I was the only one there, and he just kept staring at me. So I left too."
The number of cases of sexual offenses in 2002 is actually down compared to 2001. But many of the incidents that bother students go unreported, or are not considered crimes, said University of Arizona Police Department Cmdr. Brian Seastone.
On Nov. 12, a female student reported that a man asked to sketch her feet for an art class. She agreed, but looked up a couple minutes later and saw the man masturbating.
Two days later, there was another report of a man asking students to sketch their feet. Both incidents occurred near midnight.
Since the two reports have a link, there will be further investigation by UAPD.
However, the second report does not register as a sexual offense, like other incidents that may have sexual overtones but are not considered sex crimes, including looking at Internet pornography or taking pictures of bystanders.
According to UAPD, there have only been seven sexual offenses from August 2001 to November 18, 2002.
"I don't want to say it's something people should be alarmed about. I think it's something people should be aware of," said Seastone.
Another student said she knows a lot of guys who go to the library just to pick up girls, but was still "creeped out" when a man solicited her over the summer.
"He came up to me and made some comment about my dress, or whatever I was wearing, and then he was like, ╬Could I get your e-mail address?' I said no, but he kept coming back and talking to me," said Noelle Stillman, a business junior. "He spoke really roughly. He was probably 35. I thought he was drunk, but he just said he was from France."
While Stillman didn't report the incident, students should report similar situations, Seastone said.
"We would encourage the student to tell the person to stop, and if the action continued, contact the library staff and the police department," Seastone said.
A few students theorized that the library has become a hotbed for sexual offenses because there is a lack of security and an abundance of vacant corners and unwatched shelves.
"There's nobody really walking around making sure people are using the library for what it's supposed to be used for. And on the fourth floor, nobody's there," said communications senior Pam Simpson.
The security at the library, a five-story public building that is open 24 hours a day, has been increased since a bomb threat on Oct. 15, but librarians and those shelving books are usually responsible for security.
"It's impossible to police the whole thing, it's 300,000 square feet," said library building monitor Jim Fromm. "With the number of people we have in and out of here, the number of incidents is relatively small."
Many students that go to the library are aware of the library's former incidents and take precautions to steer clear of masturbators, and the fourth floor.
"I always sit on the first floor where it's really open, and I never come to the library at night," said Alexis Blake, a history graduate student.
The library has had sexually related problems in the past.
In 1998 signs stating, "It is inappropriate and illegal to use university restrooms for sexual activities or solicitation" were posted outside of the men's restrooms of the library after police received several complaints about homosexual activity and solicitation in those restrooms, Seastone and Fromm said.
While the same rule applies, the signs no longer appear because they were stolen about a year ago.
"I'm working on getting new ones made. Our main approach is we don't want a bunch of negative signs in here. We want this to be a friendly place," Fromm said.
It's nothing new for college libraries to attract sexual perpetrators and have a history of sexual happenings.
"The library at a lot of campuses is like this, and I don't know why in particular. This is not a new phenomenon and we're not the only campus that experiences something like this," Seastone said.
He said students and non-students usually commit the crimes at an equal rate.
While reports in the library may be high this month, the crimes reported have not been physically harmful.
"It's not like it's a sex attack," Fromm said.