ON SEPTEMBER 20, an undergraduate woman was raped in front of Hilles Library. If the assault had occurred a few days later, the one Quad security guard hired to begin his patrols that week might have detected and prevented the attack. Delay and reluctance to put money into security had led to disaster.
Last week, President Bok told the Radcliffe Union of Students that he would not take immediate action to improve campus security, but would instead refer student suggestions to a standing committee--a panel which is only now being formed. Bok's explanation for hesitating: he does not want to "rush into" changes that could cost the University money.
When it comes to security, the gradualist, take-things-slowly theory of academics simply does not apply. Student safety should be a top priority administratively and financially, and speed in improving security might prevent future incidents.
A similarly too-late consideration of improved safety measures occurred last spring when the Business School hired an additional 24-hour security guard to patrol its campus, following the rape of two Business school students. At the river, each House already has its own watchman. The University should not wait for yet another tragic incident before it decides to form yet another committee to debate whether the Quad needs more than one guard.
The University should also start negotiations with the city to install more lights and emergency alarm boxes on the route to the Quad. A University check paid to the order of the city of Cambridge might speed the process. In the meantime, the University police should come up with the safest combination of walking and driving escort service; then expand it to make sure no student need walk home alone.
Students themselves must be aware of the dangers of solo travel at night and take sensible precautions. But even for the most careful undergraduate, sometimes a safety risk is inevitable. The University should do all it can to protect students on these occasions.