Photo: janingar via Flickr
Yesterday, we heard the odd story of Birva Patel, a 26 year-old girl who was arrested for allegedly posing as a Freshman on Columbia’s campus.Today, the story just gets weirder.
Birva Patel told her “classmates” that her name was Rhea Sen, and that she was a 20 year-old from Philadelphia. “Sen” started drawing attention to herself during ISOP — the International Student Orientation Program — in late August and told a string of bizarre lies to cover her true identity.
The thing is, according to the Columbia Spectator and students commenting on its forum, Patel has allegedly been hanging around campus since December 2011, at least. On top of that, in the last week, she’s actually been arrested three times. Check out this comment from the Spectator’s first article on Patel:
She’s been here since the beginning of last spring semester. She used to hang out in Uris late at night and continually asked me and my two friends if we could be friends. She then used to follow us out as we left Uris late at night. She also tried to friend request us on FaceBook.
At that time, Patel was going by her real name and claimed she was a Junior at Columbia. Students judged that she was Indian by her accent, and invited her to meetings and events sponsored by South Asian students groups. Patel even exchanged numbers with some students, The Spectator reports.
She changed her story when school restarted for the 2012-2013 year.
Rebecca Smith, a senior and Orientation Leader approached Patel in late August when she saw the young woman eating alone in John Jay Dining Hall.
“I assumed she was just an awkward freshman very keen on making friends,” Smith told Business Insider. “She had a nervous smile… I wanted to separate myself from her because i’m a Senior.”
Smith thought that Patel should be making friends with her own classmates, and that’s what Patel set out to do. Freshmen told Smith that Patel was sighted at a concert in Lerner Hall at one point (that’s the student life building, usually only accessible with a student ID), but she was mostly seen at informal events that did not require special access.
Students brought Patel’s suspicious behaviour to the attention of Orientation Leaders during the weekend before school started (September 1st and 2nd). They noticed that she didn’t know much about the dorms and never had a student ID.
As the Freshmen became suspicious, Patel became hostile. Smith said that she once demanded that a student delete a picture of her on their phone. She also sent expletive-filled Facebook messages to people she’d met.
According to Smith, once students complained, the Orientation Leaders started putting together what they knew about Patel. They noticed that she only really had two outfits — a pink one and a blue one — and never carried around a backpack until school started. They alerted campus security and she was arrested for criminal trespassing on Thursday.
Patel went back to Columbia, though, and was arrested again on Saturday and on Monday (yesterday).
Patel was arraigned on Sunday before being released on her own recognizance. The judge, Abraham Clott, issued a temporary order of protection, according to court documents, although it was unclear to whom it was issued. A police spokesperson was not able to confirm as of press time that Patel had been arrested again on Monday.
Most students have expressed confidence with the Columbia administration’s handling of this situation, and say that they don’t think Patel is dangerous. They’ve speculated why she might be hanging around campus — perhaps, she’s homeless, some conjecture — but no one really knows.
“What I’m really curious about,” Smith told Business Insider, “are her reasons for doing this… I feel like it’s out of our hands. Maybe it’s in the NYPD’s hands, maybe public safety’s, maybe Columbia can do something.”
The question is still, what?
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