Student Throws Coffee, Is Committed to Hospital

A Summer School student entered a state mental hospital Tuesday night after a series of alleged violent attacks on persons in the Harvard area.

The 25-year-old student, Robert Romano, is enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh and was at one time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Last Sunday night, apparently without provocation, Romano threw a cup of hot coffee at one person and allegedly threatened to punch another in the Science Center cafeteria.

According to witnesses, Romano was staring at two men talking in front of the cafe's coffee machine. One of the pair said "Hi" to him, at which point Romano reportedly began talking incoherently and accused the man of following him.

Romano then hurled a cup of coffee at the man and allegedly grabbed his shirt. Romano backed off and walked quickly out of the Science Center.

The two reported the incident to Polly Moak, a Divinity School student and security guard at the Science Center, who in turn called the Harvard Police. The police apprehended Romano on Oxford St.

The two men refused to press charges.

Dorothy Tortora, supervisor at the Cambridge-Somerville unit of the West-boro State Hospital, said yesterday that Romano was brought in on a ten-day pass Tuesday night for observation.

The papers for his commital, which were signed by a physician at the University Health Services, are the standard forms used for patients who "show psychotic symptoms on the outside," Tortora said.

The alleged assault at the Science Center was apparently one of several involving Romano which have been reported to the Harvard Police. Until last Sunday night, however, no one had taken any legal action against him.

Reached at Westboro yesterday for comment, Romano confirmed that he had thrown coffee at the man, but denied that he had touched him.

"I don't go around attacking people for no reason," Romano said. "But there are a group of people following me."


He was enrolled in English S-123, "Chaucer," and English S-70, "Major American Writers from Emerson to Eliot."

Romano said he went to Penn State after graduating from high school but withdrew soon afterwards due to "apathy." After a period of wandering, including a brief stay in New York City, he enlisted in the Marines "because I had no money" and spent two years at Yuma Air Station in Arizona.

Upon his discharge, Romano enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh where he completed about two years of study before coming to Boston last spring.

Romano said that he felt "under pressure" at the Summer School "from all those people following me," making it impossible for him to study in his room in Richards Hall.

Romano indicated that he was unsure about what he would do after he is released from the hospital. "I was planning to go to the extension school in the fall. I don't know. I might go back in to the military," he said.

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