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Graduate student arrested
Mathematics student admits to about 60 incidents of lewd behavior toward Asian females on campus
By Chanakya Sethi
A graduate student in the mathematics department has been charged by Borough police with reckless endangerment and harassment in connection with more than 60 incidents targeting Asian women on campus. President Tilghman has barred the student from campus.
Michael Lohman, a third-year student in the applied and computational mathematics program, was charged last week by Borough police with two counts of reckless endangerment, two counts of tampering with a food product, one count of harassment and one count of theft.
Lohman, 28, cut and took locks of hair from about nine Asian female University students without their knowledge or consent and poured his own bodily fluids into the drinks of Asian female students more than 50 times, according to police reports.
Lohman lives in the Butler apartments with his wife of four years, who is Asian, a graduate student who knows him told The Daily Princetonian Tuesday.
The investigation began on March 3 when an Asian female student riding a campus Green Line shuttle bus on Washington Road reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) that an unidentified man had cut off a lock of her hair, University and Borough officials said.
Public Safety officials believed the incident was related to others dating back several years, DPS deputy director Charles Davall said Tuesday. The department had received three reports -- in October 2002, April 2003 and May 2004 -- of an unidentified man pouring substances into the drinks of Asian female students.
Those incidents occurred in the Graduate College dining hall serving line and in the Fine Hall library when the women's drinks were left unattended, Davall said.
A joint investigation between DPS and Borough police revealed that Lohman was on the Green Line shuttle when the female student's hair was snipped. In January, a witness from one of the earlier drink incidents identified Lohman in a photograph as the man who had poured an unknown substance into a woman's drink in April 2003, Davall said.
Upon interrogation, Lohman confessed to cutting the woman's hair and to cutting the hair of Asian female students at least eight other times, University communications director Lauren Robinson-Brown '85 said. All of the hair-snipping incidents occurred on campus, Davall said.
Lohman also admitted to pouring his bodily fluids into the drinks of Asian female students on more than 50 occasions, Robinson-Brown said. The fluids poured into the drinks were semen and urine, Lt. Dennis McManimon, the Borough police's spokesman, said in an interview Tuesday.
"In my 23 years in the department, this is clearly the most bizarre case that I've seen," McManimon said.
The Graduate College drink incidents in 2002 and 2003 occurred while Lohman was living there. Since the fall of 2003, however, Lohman has neither held a meal plan nor worked at the Graduate College dining hall, a graduate student who knows him and University officials said.
Borough police also reported that Lohman may have squirted bodily fluids on Asian female students as they rode on University shuttle buses.
A search of Lohman's apartment revealed "a quantity of women's panties and numerous mittens," according to a statement from Borough police.
The investigation, McManimon said, "has been leaning" toward the conclusion that Lohman stuffed the mittens with the hair he had obtained from students and used them for personal sexual gratification.
The full extent of Lohman's activity may not be known for some time, University and Borough officials cautioned. "The investigation is far from over. It's in its infancy," McManimon said.
Barred from campus
On Tuesday afternoon, University officials were finalizing paperwork to bar Lohman from campus. A section of "Rights, Rules, Responsibilities" -- the University document on disciplinary polices and regulations -- gives the president the authority to expel an individual from campus in circumstances "seriously affecting" the health, well-being or physical safety of any University person.
"I took the unusual step of barring Mr. Lohman from campus because the nature of his actions as we have come to understand them are not acceptable behavior on this campus, and are deeply disrespectful of the rights of others," Tilghman said in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon.
University officials are encouraging victims to come forward. "We are concerned that there are victims who have not come forward," Robinson-Brown said. "Anyone who feels that they were a victim should immediately contact Public Safety."
By the end of the day on Tuesday, the Borough police had received "at least a dozen" phone messages regarding the case, McManimon said, though he was not certain that all calls were from alleged victims.
Mental health questions
Borough police reported that Lohman was taken to Capital Health Systems, a hospital in nearby Trenton, after being arrested. Davall, the deputy director of DPS, said he could not say "whether [Lohman] is still there or why he was hospitalized."
It remains unclear whether Lohman suffers from a mental illness.
An e-mail message sent on Monday to students enrolled in MAT 308: Theory of Games, the course for which Lohman is a grader, explained the delay in returning student homework by saying that "Michael Lohman is sick."
Michael Litchman, a visiting professor in the psychology department who teaches a course on abnormal psychology, said, "Obviously [Lohman] has some extremely serious issues regarding interpersonal relationships, self esteem and socially acceptable behaviors in public."
"It may be that he does, indeed, like Asian women and may have been rejected by one or more, and he's angry and hurt. That's one possibility, but there are many other possibilities," Litchman, a clinical psychologist by training, said, stressing that he has not met with Lohman and thus cannot make a specific diagnosis.
"It might also go back to something that has happened to him prior to his entry to college, perhaps even during his childhood. At this point in time, it's difficult to pinpoint with any degree of certainty exactly what happened to this man other than to conclude that he needs intensive psychotherapy and that he shouldn't be allowed on this campus until such time as he's been successfully treated," he added.
A gifted mathematician
In interviews with the 'Prince,' a friend and former professors of Lohman painted a portrait of him as a gifted mathematician and friendly individual.
"I was shocked," a graduate student who knows Lohman said. "I couldn't believe [the news] because . . . how can one prove that he really did that?"
Lohman received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 2001 and was awarded a scholarship on the basis of his academic performance, professorial recommendations and accomplishments in math.
While at LSU, Lohman met his future wife. They were married in the summer of 2001, just after Lohman graduated, the Princeton student who knows him said. When Lohman moved to Princeton in 2002 after a year of graduate work at LSU, his wife stayed in Louisiana to finish her doctoral degree.
For the year during which they were separated, Lohman lived in the Graduate College, the Princeton graduate student said. When Lohman's wife joined him in Princeton, the couple moved to the Butler apartments, which are intended for married couples.
"They seemed happy," the student said. "The relations between he and his wife were excellent."
LSU mathematics professor Robert Perlis, who taught Lohman and was on the committee that decided to offer him a scholarship, said he was "absolutely shocked and almost in disbelief that [Lohman] could do something like this."
Another LSU professor, James Oxley, said that though his interaction with Lohman was confined to the classroom, he "had no reason to believe anything other than he was a normal student, except very gifted mathematically."
Oxley said he "was really impressed with [Lohman's] mathematical ability" -- so impressed that he recommended that Lohman go to Princeton for graduate school. He encouraged Lohman to work with Paul Seymour, a University professor he considered "the best person" in the field of graph theory.
Perlis added that Oxley "thought Michael would perhaps do better in the Princeton environment" because of the opportunities to work with some of the strongest minds in applied and computational mathematics.
When Lohman wasn't admitted to Princeton, according to the graduate student who knows him, he stayed at LSU for another year and reapplied to Princeton -- this time successfully.
"Princeton is the place he really wanted to come," the graduate student who knows him said. "He wants to be a professor, surely, in academia. He had a lot of progress on his research project, so it's a pity that he cannot continue his work . . . I will be so sorry about it."
Seymour and other members of Princeton's mathematics department declined to comment on Monday, citing a desire to respect Lohman's privacy.