New York, Sept. 12 (PTI): An Indian-origin woman has been arrested on charges of trespassing on Columbia University’s campus after she allegedly posed as a student for nine months and attended classes and orientation events.
Birva Patel, who had told students her name was Rhea Sen, has been charged with criminal trespass. The students said they had seen her on campus as early as December 2011 and she had claimed to be a junior studying engineering, university paper Columbia Spectator reported.
Patel, 26, roamed freely on campus, going on city bus tours, taking photos with acquaintances, eating in the university’s dining areas and attending orientation events.
Student affairs spokesperson Katherine Cutler said administrators first became aware of her presence “after several odd interactions with International Student Orientation Program participants”.
Patel told students she was registered for the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Programme but skipped it. She said she lived in Philadelphia and was born in India.
She did not have a university ID but was still able to get access to classes and venues across campus. She claimed she left her ID card with a friend and would “run off” when anyone asked to see it.
The students began to get suspicious after she gave various accounts of which campus hostel she was staying in.
“People saw her running around, hiding in bushes, but as far as I know, nobody actually saw her in the residence halls,” Cami Quarta, a student, said.
Some students said they felt “unsafe” around Patel, who appeared “psychotic and weird”.
Student affairs notified the department of public safety, which took her into custody last week.