Grad student in critical condition after assault in Quadrangle apartment

| Student Life Staff

Updated at 1:17 p.m. CST on Tuesday, December 22.
A 29-year-old graduate student was found, left for dead, in the basement laundry room of her off-campus apartment building.

Security in the area has been increased, but police have not yet been able to identify any suspects.

The Ph.D. student in Arts & Sciences from New Delhi, India  is still in critical condition and has been unable to speak with police and provide a description of her attacker, according to Capt. Michael Ransom of the University City Police Department.

Ransom did not provide details, but said that the police are currently working on some leads.

The student was found beaten in her apartment building at around 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 21.

According to a University press release, a Quadrangle employee doing maintenance discovered the victim, a tenant in the building, who was then taken to a hospital where she is currently reported to be in critical condition.

The building, located on the 700 block of Syracuse Avenue in University City, is owned by Quadrangle Housing, a University affiliate that owns and manages off-campus apartments for Washington University students and faculty.

The University City Police Department found no sign of forced entry into the building.

Don Strom, chief of the Washington University Police Department, sent out a crime alert to members of the off-campus community. The alert stated that the assault is believed to have occurred on Sunday, Dec. 20.

A subsequent e-mail was sent to the entire University community alerting members of this crime, which occurred one block north of the Delmar Loop.

The e-mail said that the University is offering counseling and support to other residents in the building and has also offered to help students move to another location if they feel unsafe in the area.

University City police and Washington University police are increasing security patrols in the area.

“U-City upped the amount of security in the area last night and today. The University communicated earlier in the day to students living off campus and the police contacted people who live in that building and that area,” said Steve Givens,  associate vice chancellor for public affairs. “We’ve been in direct contact with the students off campus and have posted information on doors.”

The University City Police Department is handling the investigation of this crime.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the University City Police Department at 314-725-2211 or Crime Stoppers at 866-371-TIPS.

Check back  for more information as this story develops.

  • “When they lose their jobs, they and their families are kicked out of Quadrangle Housing,” I wrote.

    I know of such a case. I heard all about it. I hope they are not still doing this. Quadrangle Housing, with only a few exceptions I know, is for people on the payroll or in the good graces of Washington University. I am sure there are some longtime residents of Quadrangle buildings who have a grandfather clause to live there after the University bought the building.

    The posters advertising Quadrangle along the Metrolink clearly state that this housing is for WashU faculty, staff, and students.

  • “The building, located on the 700 block of Syracuse Avenue in University City, is owned by Quadrangle Housing, a University affiliate that owns and manages off-campus apartments for Washington University students and faculty.”

    Quadrangle Housing rents apartments not only to Washington University students and faculty, but to staff as well. Many staff are now being laid off, their full time jobs being replaced by part time positions without benefits such as health insurance, sometimes after having been enticed here at considerable opportunity cost. When they lose their jobs, whether voluntarily, involuntarily, or pseudo-voluntarily, they and their families are kicked out of Quadrangle Housing. The University is not subtle about its opposition to organized labor. I know this from experience, and many others can attest to this as well.

    I hope the student recovers. It would be a shame if this tragedy were used as a pretext to step up surveillance of University staff to intimidate them from organizing, or to collect information for potential retaliation. This would have a chilling effect on life in the Company Town.

    I recommend the film “Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price,” shown on campus in Autumn 05 by a broad coalition of campus groups, in a packed auditorium. When one Walmart employee wrote these four words, “We need a union,” the company’s union-busting team were johnny-on-the-spot. Security cameras were installed, ostensibly for crime prevention, really for intimidation.

  • PS to my note above: I sincerely hope that the extra security measures the University will surely take in response to this incident do not include putting a barcode reader on all Quadrangle Housing doors, to keep track of the comings and goings of all WashU registered people, and to keep non-WashU registered people out of their Company Town. When we were setting up the WashU Coop, we let our objection to any such potential plan be known well in advance, to nip it in the bud. I am sure other Quadrangle apartment dwellers would have similar objections. You can call me old-fashioned, but I believe that the chief function of an American University is to prepare our students for life in a democracy, not a police state.

    Also, let nothing be done to detract from the historic character of our neighborhood, in violation of our historic preservation codes. Many in the University Administration agree with us on this issue.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome “John Hancock” Bauer
    –cofounder and special resident member, WashU Cooperative Network, Spring 03-present; WashU Coop Librarian
    –who has never posted, and never will post anonymously or pseudonymously to Student Life, lest somebody think I have a hidden agenda

  • cc: WashU owns so much property in our neighborhood, we might as well be living on campus. I am happy that the St Louis, WashU, and University City police are working together to protect us all, not just WashU students. It is the least they can do, after having taken so much local property off the tax rolls.

    John Doe: Security cameras have many uses, but never mind that for the moment. Are you suggesting that the alleyways and back doors could be made safer with surveillance cameras? Okay, let’s put them in the alleys east of Des Peres too, where not so many gentry live. Let’s put them in every alley, so criminals have no place safe to go.

    Why not hire a police officer to live in and patrol each neighborhood, and report directly to the local neighborhood association and block captains? I would prefer a friendly neighborhood police officer to a lot of cameras., monitored by people I do not know.

  • cc

    Wait, aren’t these OFF-CAMPUS housing? If you have to blame, blame the STL region or UCity police, not WashU.

  • John Doe

    The problems mentioned above can almost all be solved with cameras. This is an effective deterrant that the University should have installed in all of the areas in which it owns property. Some huge percentage of the time the criminal picks another area to prosper. The other percentage that proceed forward and commit a crime; a huge percentage of those will be solved with the aid of the cameras. This has been proven accross the country countless times. Amazing to me that this is not being discussed in this column or elsewhere. The price of this type of monitoring has fallen dramatically in the last few years.

  • On Christmas night I took a stroll around the block, to check out the Christmas lights. Not one of the Quadrangle buildings had any decorations, and few had any window lights. The graduate student apartment building next door, whose door was kicked in two days before Christmas, had only two window lights (one very dim), practically an invitation for the thieves to come back and finish their job (as expert thieves will do; I know this from experience). An unmarked police car (I think) drove by, but other than that, there was almost no sign of life on my dormitory town block. Any of our homes could be cased from the back alley by professional thieves. It’s a good thing I have a security alarm, something not provided to Quadrangle tenants. I also have deadbolts on all my doors, including the upstairs rooms. One cannot be too careful.

    The block to the east, where no gentry live, had spectacular lights and vibrant street life and holiday cheer, even at a late hour. I felt safer amongst these working class (black) homeowners than I did on my own nearly deserted block. If the University did not own so much property on my block, we would have more home owning neighbors to help keep watch over holiday break. What do our students have to give in exchange for a neighborhood watch? What can we do to improve relations between town and gown, for our mutual benefit?

    “Concerned Citizen” writes:

    “Who pays WUPD salaries? Is it ResLife or the University? Presumably tuition, not housing fees, would support the police, who should be protecting students and their property.”

    Why not ask for your tuition money back, if you are not satisfied with the University’s allocation of its resources? Let’s have more crime fighting, less political harassment and surveillance, here and everywhere. If we would all look after each other, we wouldn’t need so many cops.

  • alum&neighbor wrote:

    “The contrast of great wealth against the backdrop of great poverty, which is primarily relegated to minority groups, makes us have to wake up and pay attention to our community’s social and economic issues. The fact that Wash U owns so much tax-exempt property does NOT help the city of University City with its crime control and schools.”

    Hear, hear!

  • Concerned Citizen

    According to the WUPD crime alerts, there have also been recent break-ins on Waterman, Pershing and McPherson. But when these things happen in S40 dorms, they get gates, lights and patrols. Off-campus, fend for yourself.

    Who pays WUPD salaries? Is it ResLife or the University? Presumably tuition, not housing fees, would support the police, who should be protecting students and their property.

  • PS to my response to David: thank you for checking out our website, We are working on a redesign of this and associated websites (e.g. the Coop Library), to be back online soon.

  • Dear David,
    Your point is well taken. The WashU Coop is not for everyone, and in fact one of the reasons for its success is our careful screening process. We have done very well with that. If all of Quadrangle Housing were suddenly to become cooperative, that would probably not be good for the WashU Coop in its current form. But in fact this was suggested as a possible solution at one time, and I think we ought to discuss ways to make off campus living relatively more cooperative, over all, for everybody’s well being and security. Nobody should be forced to associate with the folks next door, or to subscribe to any of our “Pillars,” but nobody should have to bowl alone, either.

  • David

    That just seems like a way to drive people out of Quadrangle to me Jerome. Most of us just want to live our lives as we think best – and sure, we should get to know our neighbors, as the commenter above you said. But we don’t want to be forced to be part of a “movement” with certain “pillars” and “values” we are expected to agree with. (Your comment was the first I heard of this Coop, so all I know is from their website.) If people want that, let them seek that out. But I certainly don’t think all Quadrangle Housing should become that way.

  • “…suggest or even require that neighbors in buildings know each other and check on each other regularly. I know that during my time in a Quadrangle Apartment, I knew NONE of my neighbors, because I rarely saw them or because they were foreign and I just never took the initiative to introduce myself. Regardless of the reason, I was not the only “stranger,” because no one ever introduced him/herself to me, either.”

    The WashU Coop has worked cooperatively with the University and Quadrangle Housing for more than six years, and we all know each other and our neighbors. We are very grateful that the University has finally provided us full access to a second building adjacent to our first house, “The Perry,” so that we may expand our successful experiment. At one time, there was talk of making ALL Quadrangle Housing cooperative, and including graduate students. Let’s revive this initiative. Let’s look out for one another. We have some issues with Quadrangle but our cooperative arrangement with them is mutually beneficial.

    As I write this, police from three departments–, St Louis City, Washington University, and even University City–, are all over my block in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood, investigating a break-in of the Quadrangle managed graduate student apartment building next door. It’s good to know the police are on the spot when you need them, doing their legitimate police duties. Nobody next door was injured.

    Whatever happened to the plan for a graduate student dormitory on the North Campus, right next to the Delmar Metrolink stop, a great place for a graduate dormitory, a very bad place for a coal plant? What is now Plan B should be Plan A once more.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    –local homeowner and taxpayer, STILL living in the company town, by grace of the company…
    –sometime President of UPenn’s Graduate Student Associations Council, representing the interests of all PhD students, and all Arts and Sciences graduate students in the University…

  • alum&neighbor

    I am an alum of Wash U grad school and now live in University City, so I can share what it felt like to live in U City as a student and as a working professional. Also, I am close in age to the young woman attacked on Sunday, so it gives me great grief to hear this story.

    As a grad student, I often felt unsafe while living in Quadrangle Housing. I could list familiar reasons for concern:
    being alone at night when exiting my car and entering my building (you can’t always conveniently avoid that situation),
    encountering the front door or back doors to the building left ajar,
    noticing the damage to the door frame around my apartment door’s lock (caused before my time – but certainly makes it easier to pick a lock),
    no key pads or special keys to access the basement,
    a lack of emergency communication devices in the area both inside and out (including in the basement, where one time I got trapped because the power went out and it was COMPLETELY black for many minutes),
    no cost-free phone in the building for emergency contacts (in case one loses a cell phone or is locked out or has no change).

    The blue light emergency towers outside could help, but what do we have that’s comparable on the inside of buildings? Since so many students live alone, I think it is imperative to equip every room or unit in the building with an alarm alert system that the resident could trigger to communicate a need for campus police or security. Also, motion lights are a great warning or safety device. Lastly, suggest or even require that neighbors in buildings know each other and check on each other regularly. I know that during my time in a Quadrangle Apartment, I knew NONE of my neighbors, because I rarely saw them or because they were foreign and I just never took the initiative to introduce myself. Regardless of the reason, I was not the only “stranger,” because no one ever introduced him/herself to me, either.

    Also, as a current resident in the area, not in in Quadrangle Housing, I still feel unsafe in certain places in U City. The sad truth is, because of my experience of living in U City, there are certain areas I avoid, especially at night, and those dangerous areas include pockets of Quadrangle Housing on the North, East, and Southeast ends of the Loop. Those are some of the “sketchiest” areas in U City. The streets are dark, they wrap around in odd ways so if one is unfamiliar with the geography it’s hard to find one’s way in and out, the streets are often deserted, and the hub-bub of the nearby Loop drowns out any attention to that spot. It’s the perfect place to commit a crime.
    It’s also the perfect place to be inspired to commit a crime: economically privileged students and people meet economically deprived minorities.

    Lastly, we have to be aware that we all live in a neighborhood of great diversity: many ethnic groups, all socio-economic classes, various levels of education and ages, and segregated races. The contrast of great wealth against the backdrop of great poverty, which is primarily relegated to minority groups, makes us have to wake up and pay attention to our community’s social and economic issues. The fact that Wash U owns so much tax-exempt property does NOT help the city of University City with its crime control and schools. Also, what types of supports do we have for foreign students who are separated by distance and culture from any of their typical means of support and safety? Do we have any surrogate supports for them? For that matter, anyone new to the area who may not have established close enough relationships with anyone who would check on them regularly should have some sort of “I’d notice if you were gone the next morning” network. One of the biggest protections in situations like this is knowing people who notice if something is up or someone is missing. Neighborly relationships in a highly transient community are hard to develop, but nurturing the development of such relationships could be the best form of crime prevention.

  • As a parent I am very alarmed by this crime. I believe for the pretty hefty tuition we pay to Wash U. a better security system should be ensured to make us feel at ease that our children are in a safe environment. We were told the kids don’t need pepper spray. Now I wonder if that is true!

  • former student

    I am so glad that I have graduated Wash U and am out of that area. I lived in a Quadrangle apartment and never felt safe coming home at night. There have been multiple armed robberies in the area, and the only thing Wash U has done to “help” was to put a “Campus Patrol” care circling around the loop. As far as I know, there is not even a cop in that car. It just has a flashing orange light at the top. And there is only one. The fact that a U City police officer was murdered there a year ago should mean that police presence is stronger, but I noticed no difference. I wish this woman a speedy recovery and I hope to God that the Wash U police stop ignoring this problem. They need to actually be out making the area safer, not continuously advising us to lock our doors

  • David

    OK. In any case, I don’t want to distract from the right focus we should have today. Prayers and sympathy and love for the woman and her family.

    “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
    you consider it to take it in hand.
    The victim commits himself to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.

    Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
    call him to account for his wickedness
    that would not be found out…

    You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

    defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

    ~Psalm 10

  • Lauren

    That is actually want commonly happens, unfortunately. It takes daily practice in self-defense to be able to really defend oneself against someone, particularly someone of much larger size. In addition, asking women to be prepared, taser or pepper spray or whatever weapon in hand, results in very hypervigilent, scared women, accidents in which people who are not attackers are hurt, and a lot of victim blaming. I am not against self defense or anything you mentioned, but I think it is important for us as a culture to not see these risk reduction techniques as even putting a drop in the bucket toward a solution to ending violence against women.

  • David

    My wife informs me that you probably meant that a personal defensive weapon can be stolen, and then used by an attacker. That makes more sense. Sorry if I misunderstood you! (Too bad you can’t edit comments.)

  • David

    If you’re referring to my comment, I certainly wasn’t trying to blame the woman. Crimes are never the fault of the victim. Let me make that clear – this was not her fault, she deserves our support, and I’m sure she did feel safe in her own building. I totally agree with you. I’m just trying to lessen the chance of this happening to someone else by suggesting we all be prepared.

    But I do think it is “that simple.” Certainly weapons can be used by an attacker, but we can’t control whether they have one or not. We can control whether we have one or not. Remember, most violent crimes are not stopped by the police – they just happen too fast. You need to be able to protect yourself.

  • Lauren

    Please let us not start blaming this woman who is currently in a lot of pain. That is not fair to her or to any other person who has been the victim of a crime. She was in her own apartment building at night. She had reason to assume her own safety.

    There are women who have defended themselves, but we should not be blaming women when they are attacked. We should be blaming the person who did it.

    Self-defense, tasers, pepper spray, and other weapons, but I have been with a lot of women in the hospital who had this training or these accessories and felt it was her fault because she was not able to defend herself. In actual crisis situations, people do what they need to survive, and sometimes that is freezing up, fighting, or fleeing. Weapons can also be used against a person by an attacker, so it is really not this simple. Let’s give her the support that she deserves, even if we do not know her. She deserves that from her community, as do all people.

  • David

    The WashU police always offer good advice about keeping doors locked, not using facilities after dark, etc. But I really think you should also be prepared to protect yourself. If you aren’t a big guy, and especially if you are a woman, carry some pepper spray, or even a taser. It can put the odds on your side, if it comes to that.