Quinnipiac students were in class, in the library, in the dining hall and walking around on campus when a rumor of a clown sighting spread throughout the student body.
Clown sightings, arrests and rumors have been making appearances throughout the country since late August of this year.
The first reported clown sighting was Aug. 29 in Fleetwood, South Carolina. Residents of an apartment complex reported a person wearing a clown costume trying to lure children into the woods. The sightings quickly swept the South, moving on to North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Maryland, according to International Business Times.
From there, reports started coming in from Pennsylvania when a 12-year-old was chased by a clown in a park. There have been additional clown sightings in New Jersey, Idaho, Phoenix and most recently New Haven, Connecticut.
On Monday, Oct. 3 after 7:30 p.m., the Department of Public Safety at Quinnipiac University received several reports of a clown sighting on campus. They also started seeing false social media reports about lockdowns in the Arnold Bernhard Library and the Center for Communications and Engineering, according to Associate Vice President of Public Relations John Morgan.
It was rumored that the school was on lockdown. The school sent out a tweet that night, denouncing these rumors.
“The University is secure and is NOT in lockdown. All campus operations are running normally,” according to the official Quinnipiac Twitter account.
These reports were investigated and no evidence of crime or clown costume was found, according to Chief of Public Safety Edgar Rodriguez.
In his six years working at Quinnipiac University as a Public Safety officer, Rodriguez has never seen anything like this.
“This is a first for me, but whether it is a prank or a threat, [Public Safety] is going to investigate it to the fullest,” he said. “I can’t recall anything like this, especially when I had to deal with a clown outfit, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.”
Sophomore psychology major Aimee Trottier was in her dorm room when she heard about the rumored clown sightings on campus.
“I first heard of the clown sighting on campus when my friend texted me to tell me about it, and I was on the phone with my mom,” she said. “My mom freaked out and immediately ordered pepper spray to be sent to me here at school. I was a little freaked out, but I wasn’t planning on leaving my dorm room, so I felt safe.”
Rodriguez emphasized that in the state of Connecticut, wearing a costume or a mask is not a crime in itself. However, trespassing, harassing or assaulting someone while in a costume is.
“We understand that the events of substantiated reports have made the campus community members nervous and concerned,” Rodriguez said. “We have heard from both students and parents about this issue.”
Morgan said the safety and security of the university community is most important. He urges all students at Quinnipiac to sign up for the Rave Guardian system, which is a system that students can use to officially notify the university community of an emergency.
“They have all been pranks so far, but we take it as a threat. We take it very seriously,” Rodriguez said. “Our number one priority is the security and safety of our students and faculty.”
Caroline Santolli, a junior English major, feels threatened by the recent sightings in New Haven.
“Anyone dressing up as clowns should be considered a threat because there have been reports where they have been seen carrying knives [New York City subway this past week],” she said. “However, I do believe it is somewhat of an epidemic now and that people are dressing up to get a reaction and draw more attention to this issue.”
When Santolli heard about the rumored clown on campus, she assumed it was a prank but was still cautious about walking alone at night.
“If a clown ever did come to campus, I would feel safe that our Public Safety would put the security of the students first and practice the correct protocol to handle the situation,” she said.
Public Safety has also implemented a new change in case of emergency. Students should dial 911 instead of 111 from university phones when there is an emergency, due to the increased number of active-shooter incidents on campuses and now, clown sightings.
By dialing 911 from any of the University’s three campuses, you will be directly connected to the local police department, depending on which campus you’re calling from. The 911 call also will send an “alert” to Quinnipiac’s Department of Public Safety.
In addition, whenever a 911 call is made from a University location, the local police department and the Department of Public Safety will be notified of the location, including the building and room from which the call originated, according to Rodriguez.
Dialing 111 directs the alert to Quinnipiac’s Department of Public Safety in Hamden, where a staff member then dials 911 for assistance. Dialing 911 directly during an emergency is more efficient and saves valuable time.
Junior public relations major Ian Zeitlin said he was afraid when he heard the rumors, but feels as though there is no real threat.
“I know Public Safety has extensive plans set in place for intruders on campus but when it comes down to it I feel like some of the Public Safety officers are older and I don’t know what kind of response time they would have in more remote parts of campus,” he said.
If students should see someone wearing a clown costume, they should call Public Safety if they are on campus and the local police if they are off campus.
“People are getting nervous and they are afraid,” he said. Students should provide as much detail as possible about the sighting including what the clown was doing, the exact time and the direction of travel, according to Rodriguez.
“The more information we have, the better we are,” he said.
In the last couple weeks, the towns of Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect have arrested students for sending texts messages with clown photos, according to Rodriguez.
“If there were a clown on campus,I would feel very safe,” Trottier said. “I think Public Safety would do their job, and the police would most likely get involved, and I think the situation would be under control. The night of the rumored clown sighting one of my roommates had to walk across campus to get to work for a night shift, and I know that if she felt uncomfortable Public Safety would have escorted her.”