Impostor at Stanford

What a weird story. The LA Times reports that an 18-year-old impostor named Azia Kim successfully passed as a student at Stanford for eight months:

The Stanford Daily, quoting one of Kim's former roommates, said the deception started in September, the day before Stanford's orientation for new students.

Two sophomores agreed to let Kim stay in their room after she told them she did not like the roommate she had been assigned.

During the fall and winter terms, Kim allegedly slept in the other women's room or the lounge of the 210-resident dorm. Last month, she moved into another dorm after being referred to another student who needed a roommate.

Residence hall associates became suspicious after comparing conflicting statements Kim allegedly gave and contacting the student housing office. Kim was confronted Monday and escorted from campus, according to the Stanford Daily.

Amy Zhou, Kim's roommate in the second dorm, said Kim apparently got into the room through the window because she never had a key.

Kim told other students she was a sophomore majoring in human biology and bought textbooks and studied with friends.

"Personally, I don't feel safe now that Stanford allowed this to happen and that they're not doing anything to ensure the safety of their students," Zhou said. "I think something's definitely wrong with the system if this could happen."

No word yet on whether she took classes, ate at the cafeteria, etc. (Not that it matters, but I wonder if she was a dinged applicant who decided she was going to attend Stanford anyway?)

It's disturbing that she got away with this for eight months. That several students let this stranger move in with them, no questions asked, serves as a caution. Having to climb through the window to get in and out of the room because she never had a key? I hate to tell people that they are too trusting, but there is such a thing.  (See here for my posting about an experiment in which college students easily let themselves be lured into a stranger's van and tied up with duct tape.)

And while the (real) Stanford student quoted above is right that there are obviously some problems with the current "system" if this was able to happen, students also need to take responsibility for their own safety, and for each other's safety. All the security in the world isn't going to help if you let an impostor climb through your window for eight months. It can be embarrassing to confront someone you suspect of being a fraud, or to yell for help when you suspect someone may be trying to harm you. What if you're wrong? What if they're actually harmless, nice people? It's an embarrassment we need to get over.

So far there's a happy ending in the sense that no one got hurt, but it's a nice reminder that there are a lot of strange ducks out there, both on campus and off, and we need to be careful.