In Currier, Security Sparks a Debate

New masters hire a security guard; for some in the Quad, that’s not quite a good thing

Currier House residents are decrying fresh security measures, including a new guard, implemented by the dorm’s interim masters.

Currier had been the only House without a security guard assigned to it. Newly appointed Interim House Masters Shahram and Laura Khoshbin have also moved the door buzzer, which lets in people without a student ID, from the “bell’s desk” near Currier’s front door to a less accessible spot in the guard’s office.

In the past, the bell’s desk has been manned by students. Currier residents will still work there, but for fewer hours and with less responsibility.

Some Currier residents argue that the new measures are stripping the Quad House of its character. But Shahram Khoshbin, who served as a resident tutor and chair of the House’s pre-medical advisory committee before becoming interim master, insists that real safety issues justify the changes.

“Having been here for such a long time, we obviously had a long institutional memory,” Khoshbin said. “The problem with institutional memories is of course you remember all the wonderful things but you also remember all the things that were scary. We are an urban campus. We are not a closed campus.”

Still, many Currierites have not taken kindly to the new security protocol, which now requires a guard to be present from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. every day.

“The fear is that these changes aren’t just the end of it, that they’re indicative of the House masters’ position in general, that they’re going to try to change a lot about what makes Currier Currier,” said Bradley D. Attaway ’08, who works at the bell’s desk and has been one of the most outspoken students oppposed to the measures.

In interviews, students expressed concerns about the added cost of the guard and the inability of students who forgot their IDs to get into the House without a Currier resident to recognize them. They also spoke of the negligible help offered by an unarmed, older guard and the lack of a full explanation from the House’s leadership.

“What we’re all hoping for is a direct address from the House masters... where they explain exactly their vision for Currier and sort of the reasons why they changed these security measures because that would be treating us like adults and not just imposing things as though we’re kindergartners,” Cleo D. M. Leung ’08 said.

Though the Khoshbins did send a response over the House’s open list after students began voicing their concerns, Leung and others felt it was not adequate and took particular offense at their explanation, which partly invoked the shooting at Virginia Tech last spring.

“We all know that you do not pull out random terror events to justify drastic measures in other areas that really aren’t related,” Leung said. “Virginia Tech was perpetrated by a student who had swipe access.”

The Khoshbins defended their decision and expressed consternation at some students’ reactions.

“Our reaction is completely that of what parents would do,” said Shahram Khoshbin, also an associate professor of neurology at the Medical School. “I am hurt that when I spent an inordinate amount of time that I didn’t have to... for something that is purely for them, I haven’t had anything other than headache because of it.”

The Khoshbins were also emphatic that the time was right for increased security, that they were not trying to patronize or condescend to their residents, and that the bell’s desk would remain a center of social life in the House.

“Things nationwide seem to be intensifying. Fitting that together with what we know about the neighborhood...it seemed like the right time,” Laura Khoshbin said.

Not all residents of Currier were dismayed at the changes that have taken place. Students who defended the new system over the House’s open list argued that the new regulations made Currier’s security comparable to that in the rest of the Houses. They also said security at some other schools is significantly more elaborate and difficult to navigate.

“Anybody who knows about the weekend situation in Currier House kind of knows that people just sort of pour out of the shuttle and come floating into the House,” said Lauren M. Freid ’08.

—Staff writer Victoria B. Kabak can be reached at vkabak@fas.harvard.edu.