A sophomore was stabbed seven times in his Next House residence on Tuesday, Oct. 23, prompting a review of housing security policies.
Anna L. Tang, a Wellesley College junior who was taking classes at MIT, allegedly stabbed her ex-boyfriend, Wolfe B. Styke ’10, as he slept. On Tuesday, Tang was charged in the Cambridge District Court with home invasion and armed assault with intent to murder.
At 6:28 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Cambridge Police received a 911 call from Styke indicating that he had been stabbed and identifying Tang as his attacker. Arriving at the second floor of the east wing of Next House undergraduate dormitory, Cambridge Police found Styke standing at the door to his room and “bleeding profusely from multiple stab wounds,” according to a police report. Styke suffered severe but non-life threatening stab wounds to his neck, chest, right upper arm, left rear shoulder, and left leg.
Styke told a Cambridge Police officer that he did not know where Tang was. At that point, Tang, who was standing approximately 20 feet down the hallway, said, “Here I am.” Tang was then placed under arrest and her jacket and backpack, which were both covered in blood, were taken as evidence. Her backpack contained a small folding buck knife, according to the police report. Tang told the arresting officer that she had multiple knives and lost control of the first one during the attack, according to the report.
Wolfe is recovering at Massachusetts General Hospital and is in serious condition, according to the Associated Press. In a statement issued by Pamela Dumas Serfes of the MIT News Office, MIT is “heartened by the progress he has shown in his recovery” and is “cooperating fully with the Cambridge Police Department and the Middlesex District Attorney’s office on their investigation.”
“Our hearts and minds go out to the people at MIT affected by this," said Arlie Corday, a spokesperson from the Wellesley Office for Public Affairs. Wellesley is "trying to help our students to cope with this news." Disciplinary action is premature at this point, Corday said.
Tang is currently being held at the MCI-Framingham correctional facility, pending a 58A dangerousness hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Meredith Lerner from the Middlesex District Attorney's Office said that a dangerousness hearing is a bail review and gives the Commonwealth more time to gather evidence.
Tang's defense attorney, John Valerio of Andover, did not return a call for comment yesterday.
Residents of Next House held an impromptu prayer session the midnight after the assault, said Samuel H. Poon '09 who lives next door to Styke. "We prayed a word of blessing for him and his family," Poon said.
Then narrative from the police report and full text of the MIT statement can be found on page 12. Court documents regarding Tang’s arrest, booking, and criminal docket are available on The Tech’s Web site at http://www-tech.mit.edu/V127/N49/stabbing/.
Key given out by night watchman
According to the police report, Tang traveled to MIT on the Wellesley-MIT Shuttle and arrived at Next House around midnight. It is unclear if she walked in behind someone or was let in by a deskworker. Tang told an officer that she waited in a Next House lounge where she “read for a while” and “took a nap,” according to the report. When she awoke around 5:30 a.m., Tang approached the Next House night watchman, Russel J. Novello, for a key to Styke’s room.
Novello told an officer that he gave Tang the key to Styke’s room and knew that Tang and Styke were dating but was not aware that they had broken up. According to the police report, Tang and Styke had been dating for eight months and broke up approximately three weeks ago. Novello later went to Styke’s room to retrieve the key and knocked on the door. Tang answered the door and returned the key, at which point Novello did not notice anything wrong. Tang later told the arresting officer that Novello’s knocks didn’t wake Styke.
Novello was immediately placed on leave following MIT’s standard procedure, said Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Karen A. Nilsson.
Night watchpersons are “never supposed to touch the spare keys,” said Nilsson. MIT’s policies state that night watchpersons should “never open a student door without the resident present,” except in certain — usually emergency — circumstances, Nilsson said.
Nilsson, however, stressed that the investigation into the incident was just beginning. MIT needs to perform a full investigation and “hear directly from [Novello] what the circumstances were,” said Nilsson.
Nilsson said that Novello has been with the institute for 26 years, served as a night watchman for five, and has a “strong reputation of good service.”
Charles H. Stewart III, McCormick housemaster and head of political science, wrote an e-mail to McCormick stating a deskworker was also asked by Tang for Styke’s room key earlier in the day and the deskworker refused.
Dorm access policies reviewed
As a result of the incident, Housing has reiterated policies regarding access control to all relevant individuals. “[We] have already begun a process of looking at all our current policies to see that they are being followed to the letter of the law,” said Nilsson.
Housing has met with every night watchperson, as well as all of the house managers regarding current policies. Nilsson said that the house managers would meet with desk captains and desk workers to remind them of access policies.
MIT Police Chief John DiFava said that Housing, not the MIT Police, is responsible for dormitory access control decisions.
In addition to tighter access control, some residents have expressed concern regarding the way the assault was handled, specifically since residents of Next House were notified hours after the incident. The MIT community was notified of the incident via e-mail around 2:30 p.m.
DiFava said that a decision was made not to use MIT’s new emergency notification system, implemented after the Virginia Tech shootings, since “it was determined there was no longer a danger to the community.”
DiFava said he met with Next House students regarding the assault and that, in the future, the police would aim for “a more timely notification.”
The stabbing has also prompted a review of residence hall security to be conducted by Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, according to a community-wide e-mail from President Susan Hockfield.
Clay wrote in an e-mail to The Tech that he was working out the details of the security study and wanted to ensure that the process “consults deeply with students, housemasters, and staff.”
Nilsson was hesitant to speculate on changes that could occur to residence security, but did say that each residence would be consulted in policy revisions.
Current spare key policies are set by each individual residence, though they only apply to deskworkers and not night watchpersons, Nilsson said. Random Hall, as an example, has a policy that allows individuals on a "key list" to get room keys. The policy was temporarily halted after the stabbing, but Random’s housemaster Nina Davis-Millis said the policy had been reinstated. “Random Hall does an outstanding job of keeping our dorm safe," Davis-Millis said. "I see no reason to change our policies."
Prior security problems at Next
Nilsson said that Housing has a “strong history of providing good security,” and that in her years at MIT, “[t]his particular incident … is something that has never happened before.”
Next House has, however, had security problems in the past. In November 2002, a Next House resident was awakened by a burglar armed with a large knife. The burglar stole cash before escaping. The intrusion was blamed on a lax door security policy. According to The Tech’s archives, Next House house manager at the time, Julie Mills, was working to secure the dormitory by requiring everyone to present MIT ID cards. Then desk co-captain Peter A. Jameson ’03 said that it was “hard to regulate” dormitory access, since desk workers were required to open doors during open dining hours.
A follow-up December 2002 analysis by The Tech found that Next House began requiring individuals to sign in for open dining hours, though few if any security changes had been made at other residences.
Jeff Guo, Ryan Ko, and Angeline Wang contributed to the reporting of this article.