Dillard University students were shaken out of what appears to be a lackadaisical concern for their safety when robbed at gunpoint during the early morning hours of Friday April 20th .
Between 1:45a.m. and 2:00a.m. three unknown suspects robbed approximately 23 to 25 students at gunpoint at the Spanish Plaza outside the Riverwalk Mall.
The students and about three other local males were gathered around the fountain, dancing, listening to music and spending time with one another when the three suspects robbed them.
Dillard officials did not organize the gathering; therefore, there was no security present by either Hilton or Dillard staff.
The three robbers approached the students carrying garbage bags and four guns, two nine millimeters and two AK 47s; according to Ashley Dallas who says they then requested that the students lie on the concrete.
According to Freddye Hill, vice president of campus life and enrollment management, the University’s first concern was the welfare of the students.
This incident has made students more aware of their surroundings and themselves especially in public. Dallas, a freshman from Chicago, whose phone and iPod were stolen but later found by the police, said she is dealing with the situation okay now. “I’m more cautious about my surroundings and more aware about myself in public”. She also advised students involved in future incidents, “Don’t go in isolated places no matter how fun it may seem. Don’t bring unknown people into certain settings, and when you get a feeling to leave, don’t hesitate.”
Ryan Belcher, also a freshman, from Indianapolis whose cell phone was stolen said he has become more aware and protective of himself and his belongings. “I feel as if I need to protect my surroundings more, I was sleeping on the situation, I didn’t think twice about it.” Belcher said. He said he would firmly tell students, “Watch your surroundings, and be careful and aware of your surroundings.”
The administration wanted to ensure that support was given to each one of the students.” Some students are traumatized and of course we have provided the necessary services to ensure their needs are met.” Hill said during an interview. Lakesiha Cohen, a Dillard University counselor and Reverend Gail Bowman, University chaplain; met with students the day after the event to show students their support, Hill told us.
Following the incident, President Marvalene Hughes and the senior cabinet met for two hours over a conference call to develop a plan of action including a time for her to meet with students. Dillard has made all efforts to ensure the students emotional needs are met and make sure a situation like this doesn’t happen again; Hill said.
To avoid situations such as this, department of Campus life will be providing more events so that students will not feel as if they have to organize their own events, Hill stated. “We’re going to have more social events on Thursdays. We are asking that students do not organize outside events because we can’t control activities not organized by us or off campus.”
Hill added that Dillard will continue to uphold its policies such as curfews, and require all students to carry ID cards. “We’re going to speak to our students about inviting unknown students or guest into this hotel. We’re going to start really enforcing the rules. This is a public hotel but we can surely enforce rules about guest and privacy on floors four through twelve,” Dr. Hill said.
All efforts will be made to guarantee the students safety and comfort during this trying time. Dillard police chief Willie Bourda and Dillard staff has been and will continue to work with the New Orleans and Harbor Police department in this ongoing investigation. “It was an unfortunate situation and I’m extremely happy no one was hurt. The NOPD and Harbor Police are investigating and we’re extremely cooperative,” Bourda said. Chief Bourda and staff have compiled a list of safety tips that will be distributed to students as soon as possible.