HASTE Means Safety
We have all heard the stories. From flashers in the mailroom to strangers by the river to people lurking on unlit paths, this campus has always required a little extra precaution at night of when walking alone. However, safety is not just an issue in darkness or solitude--assaults happen just as frequently in the middle of the day, and even the busiest area on campus do not always seem secure.
Students should not have to look over their shoulder going to class in the morning or home at night. Common activities, like running by the river in the afternoon or returning late from a party, should be cause for alarm.
Alas, all too often they are not. But finally, something is being done. The Harvard Alliance for Safety Training and Education (HASTE) formed just weeks ago as a coalition of a number of concerned student groups on campus. The organization represents not only a long-awaited retaliation against threats to security, but is also the most effective working group between students and administrators that has arisen in a long while.
In contrast to many student groups who face bureaucratic and financial hurdles that seem to make their results so hard to come by, after just a few brainstorming sessions HASTE is succeeding in bringing its message of empowerment in the face of threats to safety to all students on campus in full force. It does so with the backing of the Undergraduate Council and a number of other organizations.
Discussions on safety are finally being made a priority in residential life. The pizza "safety break" in Pforzheimer House at the beginning of this week is the first in a series of workshops on security which will take place in each house, co-sponsored by students and tutors. Further, each house will offer access to self-defense programs which will occur frequently and which will be free to all undergraduates.
At the same time, Harvard University Police officers are becoming more accessible, meeting with students, sponsoring workshops, and they are ever in the process of printing up wallet-sized cards with safety tips and hotline phone numbers.
Best of all, new program ideas are being generated daily, overseen by an ad hoc committee on safety that includes students and administrators. Safetywalk has been rejuvenated from the brink and is embarking on another publicity campaign. A runner's alliance is being formed. Following the programs in each of the houses, first-year outreaches are being planned. The group is pushing for a re-emphasis on safety and harassment issues to be included in the freshman week programs.
If each of the programs HASTE has initiated is absorbed into house life as promised, and workshops and outreaches become visible parts of the resources available to students, there will be a radical change in the climate surrounding security on campus. Students will be sure that their well-being is a priority of the house and college administration, and they will know that the resources of HUPD are being well used.
There is still progress to be made. Questions of jurisdiction, especially in area such as along the Charles River and in the Cambridge Commons, need to be ironed out by both state and campus police. The installation of better lighting and more guards is imperative.
Certainly, all the prevention in the world will not stop the crime. While we are lucky to have such a vast campus, it is nestled in a community that cannot, and should not, be surrounded by a well-locked gate.
However, the first step in combating security violations that occur all too often is empowering ourselves with awareness. Rather than simply installing blue light systems, making the issue of safety a priority in our lives will mean that we will not have to be afraid on our campus. Let's hope we get to that point with HASTE.
Corinne E. Funk's column appears on alternate Tuesdays.