A look into stalking at the University of Connecticut

UCPD. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Within one week of moving into his room in Garrigus Suites to begin his junior year of college, Gino DeAngelis’ roommate left the University of Connecticut in handcuffs.

“He was arrested on the first Friday of school and we never saw him in person again,” DeAngelis, a fifth-semester journalism and political science double major minoring in philosophy, said.

DeAngelis said that after the arrest, he learned his roommate, a transfer student and fellow junior named David Pritzl, was arrested for stalking female UConn students. The Journal Inquirer reported on Aug. 31 that Pritzl was charged with two counts of third-degree stalking.

DeAngelis said he wasn’t surprised that Pritzl had been charged with stalking, in part because of a conversation he overheard Pritzl having on the phone.

“He was talking about girls he was interested in, and he was talking weird about them, he was talking about how he was ‘testing’ them, that was the word he used, and we didn’t know what that meant,” DeAngelis said. “He said you have to ‘clown on’ girls, he used that phrase a lot.”

The next day, DeAngelis was with his third roommate and their friends in his room when a police officer knocked on his door, asking if he knew where Pritzl was.

“We said, ‘we don’t know,’ DeAngelis said. “We didn’t see him until like 11:30 that night when he came back in the room, and [he] was talking about how the cops held him for no reason. He said, ‘the cops told me not to talk to a girl I liked.’”

According to the Journal Inquirer, when the police told Pritzl he could no longer have contact with the woman who reported the behavior or her friends, he accused them of lying, demanded the woman be brought into the room and said he would stay there until she showed up.

The women said they were scared of what Pritzl would do if they rejected him and were worried he would try to hurt them for reporting his behavior to police, the Journal Inquirer said.

Stories like the one involving Pritzl are not uncommon at UConn.

In fact, according to UConn’s annual security and fire safety report, 26 cases of stalking were reported to the school in 2015, 12 were reported in 2016 and four were reported in 2017.

“The data includes not only incidents reported to police, but also to other university offices, which gives the most comprehensive picture of data and trends,” UConn Police Department (UCPD) Deputy Chief Andrew Fournier said. “The numbers reported in the annual security report reflect information from multiple offices including the Office of Institutional Equity, which intakes reports of Title IX cases, which may or may not have been reported to police, hence why the numbers are greater.”

UConn defines ‘stalking’ as engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for that person’s safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress.

“For the purposes of this definition, course of conduct means two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property,” UConn’s annual security and fire safety report reads.

Fournier said UCPD’s in-house system shows six arrests made since Jan. 1, 2015 that include a stalking charge.

“Four of these cases were from 2018 and they are still pending with the court system,” UCPD Record Clerk Donna Bill said. “The other two cases have no public records available.”

In addition to the arrests made by UCPD, the Office of Institutional Equity also conducts investigations into stalking claims.

Of the nine incidents reported to the office that took place in 2017 and were identified as connected to UConn, two investigations were made. Both investigations resulted in the expulsion of a student, both findings were appealed and both appeals were denied, according to UConn’s Report Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 10a-55m.

There are multiple reasons why there is a difference between the number of cases reported and the number of cases that result in disciplinary action, according to Elizabeth Conklin, Office of Institutional Equity Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator.

Conklin said students do not often choose to have an investigation made into their claims.

“Sometimes a student will report it, and there will be a no-contact order and a conversation with the person who is doing it, and the student will feel like that worked,” Conklin said. “So, there are resolutions in that way.”

Conklin added that sometimes her office never hears directly from the students who reported the cases, as students will sometimes report them to university employees rather than her office.

“All UConn employees, except those in Counseling and Mental Health Services and Health Services, are required to report to my office if a student discloses sexual assault or stalking,” Conklin said. “So, my office would receive that report, and what we do after receiving that report is make sure that students are connected with resources and make sure they have information about investigation options.”

Conklin’s office will reach out to the students to let them know what their options are, she said, but students have the final decision on how to proceed with a case.

“In some of those nine [cases], we probably never actually heard directly from the student. And that’s okay, that’s their choice,” Conklin said. “But we do reach out to make sure students know the resources they have.”

Conklin said that when students request an investigation into their claims of stalking, those investigations usually involve requesting evidence from the victim and ensuring the victim’s safety.

“Every investigation is its own thing. It’s a case-by-case thing,” Conklin said. “Generally speaking, we’re obviously going to start with the student who is experiencing the behavior. Talk about when it happened, get any evidence like text messages, Facebook stuff, other social media stuff, a list of witnesses we can speak to, then we can speak to the person who is doing the behavior.”

In addition to gathering evidence, the office will usually place a no-contact order between the stalker and the stalkee, Conklin said.

“If the person who’s being investigated violates the no-contact order, that’s something that could be investigated and they could face discipline for,” Conklin said.

Conklin said, her office ultimately defers to the wishes of the students who disclose they are being stalked.

“For the person who is experiencing this behavior, it’s important that they have some agency over what is happening in their own situation,” Conklin said. “I hope anyone struggling will feel comfortable coming forward.”


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.