University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran said Thursday he does not expect the university to make any changes to the dorms where two students have fallen from sixth-floor windows this month in unrelated incidents.
Curran said UD invested a combined $36 million in recent years to the Marycrest and Stuart complexes, including installing new windows, which students said have stoppers to keep them from opening more than six inches.
Despite security measures, UD freshman Michael Fuchs, 19, fell on April 20 from his dorm room window in Marycrest and was seriously injured. He remains hospitalized at Miami Valley Hospital. Freshman Larry Cook, 18, died after he fell six stories from a common area in Stuart. Dayton and university police are investigating the circumstances of both falls and do not suspect foul play in either case.
UD officials said security issues were reviewed beginning in 2006 when Marycrest underwent a $20 million renovation and Stuart a $16 million.
UD said “the safety of our students is our highest priority, and we are looking into what steps we might take,” and Curran pointed out that “if you look at the history of both of those (dorms), it’s over 50 years without any incidents.”
While many students living in the dorms said the security measures in place are enough, the lawyer for the Cook family, who died April 2 after falling from Stuart Hall, said an expert evaluation of safety should be conducted.
Cook’s death, just before his 19th birthday on Wednesday, was ruled a suicide by the Montgomery County Corner, but the family disputes that claim and has hired Florida attorney Christopher Chestnut to investigate. Chestnut said Thursday the case of a second student falling from a campus dorm window “confirms our position that UD has some serious student safety issues.”
According to UD officials, their dorms either meet or exceed building codes. State codes do not require any safety measures for windows, said William Schulke, the city of Dayton’s chief plans examiner. While there are ventilation requirements, “there’s no restriction on how the windows operate,” he said. ”There’s no regulation that says you have to lock it or it has to be lockable to prevent someone from falling out. That goes back to trying to regulate people’s actions.”
Universities go to varying measures to secure their dormitory windows, but must balance security with the possible need for firefighters to enter through the windows in case of emergencies, said Dan Bertsos, Wright State University’s director of residence life and housing. Wright State’s tallest dorm is four stories and its dorm windows are equipped with screens that are difficult to remove, he said. Some windows are also “bucket windows” that open like a flower box, he said.
“Somebody who’s trying to get through a window — no matter what campus you are on — if they’re going to kick out a screen or cut a screen, you can’t stop somebody who is determined to go out a window,” he said. “And, unfortunately, it happens all too often.”
Marycrest resident Carly Goings, a freshman, said she feels safe in the dorm. A stopper in the window keeps it from opening more than enough to barely stick her head through. She said the stopper can be removed, but not easily, and allow the window to opened wider.
Freshman Reid Fuente said windows in dorm hallways and common areas open even less. “When I first came in, I thought they were overprotective because they only open so much,” he said.
Stuart resident Anthony Vaglica said it is difficult with the two students having fallen from windows, but said he is not sure what else UD could do to secure the windows.
Ohio State University locks the windows of its two tallest dorms, the 24-story Lincoln and Morrill towers, said student life spokesman Dave Isaacs. Other residence halls have security screens, which would require wire cutters to remove, he said.
Wittenberg University’s 10-story tall Tower Hall has “split windows,” which are intentionally designed with a metal bar down the middle as a safety measure to make it difficult to exit through the windows, according to John Paulsen, the private university’s director of plant, safety and environment.
Other universities, including Cedarville and Miami, have dorms that do not exceed three stories. Cedarville’s window either opened by a crank and don’t fully open, said spokesman Mark Weinstein.
This month, a Dayton resident was also killed after he fell from his 12th-story Jaycee Towers apartment on April 21. According to a police report, it appears Stephen Ross, 65, was cleaning his window when he accidentally fell.
The Dayton Daily News continues to follow the investigations of the two students who have fallen from high-rise dormitory windows this month, leaving one dead and the other in critical condition. We are asking the questions, reviewing records and will provide readers with the latest developments.