Indecent Exposure in Elson Brings Police to Campus

Last Friday evening, an alleged incident of indecent exposure occurred in the Elson Art Center in the presence of three Senior girls, causing both discomfort and puzzlement among members of the Andover community and drawing a response from Acting Head of School Rebecca Sykes during Wednesday’s All-School Meeting. According to one of the Phillips Academy students who witnessed the alleged act, she and another friend were waiting to meet up with a third companion at approximately 6:45 pm on Friday. Waiting by the theatre callbox in the lobby of George Washington Hall, the two students noticed a middle-aged white man loitering in the area nearby. Figuring that the man was most likely a member of the Andover community, the students simply shrugged off his presence. After the students’ third friend had arrived, the man had disappeared and the group then entered the Gelb exhibition room to view the student art on display. In the halls of Elson, the witness allegedly heard “strange noises” before noticing the same man whom they had seen in the GW lobby. The man did not approach the students but remained, furtively hiding and peering out at them at times. He then inappropriately exposed himself, but did not verbally address the students. Frightened by the confrontation, the three students ran down the hall and screamed before encountering a janitor. The students explained the incident to the janitor, who then called PAPS (Phillips Academy Public Safety). According to one of the student witnesses, the janitor told her that he was approached earlier in the evening by a man matching a similar description to that of the alleged perpetrator. The man apparently confronted the janitor and asked him to avoid cleaning that part of the building where he was later found exposed for “about an hour.” PAPS immediately locked the three students into the Polk Audio-Visual Center, to attempt to prevent the man from approaching them again. After PAPS deemed that an appropriate amount of time had passed and determined that it was safe to depart from the building, the student witnesses were escorted to the Day Hall dormitory. PAPS proceeded to call the Andover Police Department, whose officers questioned the students. Although local forces were unable to locate the suspect, who is not believed to be a member of the Andover community, an investigation of the incident is still ongoing. Wanting to dispel any rumors of alleged incident, Acting Head of School Rebecca Sykes confronted the issue during Wednesday’s All School Meeting. Mrs. Sykes provided a brief synopsis of the night’s event, before expressing her wish for students to continue to exercise caution around campus. “While we are fortunate to live in an open campus, this means we must be careful,” she said. She urged students to “be proactive after dark” and to always have a companion to accompany them around campus. Mrs. Sykes also advised students to immediately call 911 if they feel they have witnessed any sort of suspicious activity. While last Friday’s incident was the most extreme instance of alleged sexual misconduct involving outsiders on Phillips Academy’s campus in recent memory, it is not the only recent case of its kind. Several years ago, a man describing himself only as “Brad” proceeded to repeatedly call several junior boys and hold lengthy conversations with them, hoping to lure them to specified locations on campus. It is believed that the man somehow acquired a copy of The Directory, as he previously knew each of his caller’s names. After the school managed to trace several of these phone calls, “Brad” was arrested last year. In another unrelated incident that also occurred during the winter of 2001, a man unaffiliated with Phillips Academy was seen loitering near Stevens Dormitory late at night. Although the alleged intruder was never caught by PAPS, increased security measures were put into place to protect residents of the dormitory.