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Securing the Ivory lower

By Alan Cooperman

If you are raped in a place other than your home, remember everything you can about the setting. Try to leave your fingerprints everywhere you can, and try to leave some personal small item such as a button or earring, anything which can be traced to you. Preserve all physical evidence carefully. Do not bathe, shower, douche, change clothing, comb hair, etc. Try not to touch any object handled by your attacker.

"Playing It Safe"

When students pick up their registration packets this week, they will find two startling, new booklets tucked in with the usual announcements of rules, prizes, and student activities. One is a guide to campus security bearing the innocuous title, "Playing It Safe." The other, called "RAPE," is a 13-page explanation of the "sexual, psychological, medical, social, and legal ramifications" of violent sexual crime. Both are published by Harvard.

Since 1977, when two Leverett House residents were raped in their rooms, the University has been struggling to improve the security of its students, in general, and to prevent rapes, in particular. Guards have been posted in some entryways, night-time escort services have been extended, more blue-light emergency telephones have been installed on campus buildings, students have received ID cards with photographs, the Harvard Police station has been moved closer to the Radcliffe Quad, University police have created a sensitive crime unit with two female officers, and students and Faculty members have formed committees on security.

According to police statistics, these changes have resulted in a recent decrease in vandalism and in all categories of theft (See chart). But violent crime is still on the rise; last year, there were more reports of rape (5) and assault (37) at Harvard than ever before.

To stem the tide of violent crimes, University officials this summer approved three major programs. First, Harvard Police will be beefed up by the addition of four foot patrolmen and possibly an expensive, new communications system. Second, eight high-intensity lights will be installed in the Radcliffe Yard, and new lighting systems are being designed for the Yard. Finally, the University is offering frank advice to students about crime for the first time. That advice is contained in the two new booklets distributed at registration.

"In the past, there was a lot of denial about the existence of crimes at Harvard, especially rape," says Sharon J. Orr '83, the principal author of "Playing It Safe." "But once it's out in the open, everyone will be safer. I wanted to make it clear exactly what you can do to help prevent crimes and what to do if you're a victim."

Orr, who is president of Students Organized for Security (SOS), a two-year-old group of about ten undergraduates who lobby Harvard administrators for security improvements, came up with the idea of writing "Playing It Safe" last spring. The student-Faculty Committee on Security approved the idea, and Orr spent the summer in Cambridge working on the project with Thomas A. Dingman '67, senior tutor in Leverett House and assistant dean of the College for the House system; Marlyn M. Lewis, senior tutor in North House; and Saul L. Chafin, chief of University Police.

The purpose of the booklet, Chafin says, "is to make sure students know they're living in a dangerous city, but that they can be safe if they follow simple rules." Those rules range from the usual pablum about not walking alone at night and not accepting rides from strangers to very detailed, hard-headed recommendations. For example, "Playing It Safe" advises that if you notice someone following you down the street, should cross the street and observe the person's actions. Act suspicious, keep looking back, and try to put space between you and the follower. If he crosses the street as well, turn around to look, taking note of the sex, size, and features of the person. If he persists, scream, run to a well-lit business or residence, enlist a passerby, flag down a motorist, pick up an emergency blue-light phone, attract attention in the best way you can.

Dingman positively gushes about the booklet, calling it "comprehensive," "readable," and "down-to-earth." "It's a guide to well-being, not just a collection of resources or a list of 'do's and 'don't's," he says. Orr, however, admits that some of the advice may be difficult to follow, particularly the recommendation to women not to wash after being raped. In addition, Orr says she is "worried" about the other booklet, "RAPE," which was co-authored by social workers at the University Health Services (UHS) and female members of the Police Department's sensitive crime unit. "It isn't deliberate, but there is [in "RAPE"] a lot of blaming the victim and emphasis on feeling guilty after a rape, not on the fact that rape just exists and we should deal with it the best we can," she says. Overall, Orr believes, the two new booklets are "a very positive thing. It's the first time rape has been handled, and you've got to start somewhere."

While the booklets were being prepared this summer, the University commissioned an architectural consulting firm, Sasaki Associates Inc. of Watertown, to study lighting in the Yard and at the Quad. Robert Saltonstall, Harvard's new associate vice president for administration, says the study cost about $6000 and that its primary goal was to cut energy use by 25 to 30 per cent, "while also improving security and appearance, if possible."

After touring the campus at night several times, Sasaki's architects reported in late July that "disorganized light sources ... create excessive glare and deep shadows which increase security and safety concerns" in the Yard, and that "many very dark zones exist in the Radcliffe Quadrangle and result either from a total lack of lights or shadows created by badly placed lights."

Among the firm's preliminary recommendations was the installation of eight mercury-vapor lamps in the Quad, including two in front of Hilles library, where a student was raped last year. Saltonstall quickly approved the recommendation "for security reasons," and the lights are slated to be operating by mid-October. They will cost approximately $22,000.

In addition, Sasaki Associates suggested that the University rearrange lighting in two key areas of the Yard: the quadrangle between Widener Library, Emerson and Sever, and the area between Widener and Weld. Saltonstall says the project would probably cost more than $50,000 and would be "very sensitive" because of the historic nature of the Yard. Although some lighting changes are almost certain to be made in the Yard, he adds, they are probably a year or more away.

According to Police Chief Chafin, much of the credit for the new lights at Radcliffe should go to SOS, which pushed vigorously for them after the rape last year. The effect of the lights, he adds, "will be to increase both security and the perception of security" at the Quad.

As a third measure to increase security this year, Harvard's Police Department, which had as many as 74 personnel at its peak ten years ago, will be increased from 60 to 64 employees this fall. Four new officers, currently in training at Topsfield Police Academy, are scheduled to join the force in mid-October. This additional manpower, Chafin says, will allow the department to place a uniformed street patrolman in the area of the River Houses every night.

Moreover, Chafin says, the department may soon purchase communications equipment to join the Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network (BAPERN). The equipment, which could cost upwards of $10,000, is necessary because the Cambridge Police Department--the only department with which Harvard policemen now have radio contact--is switching to BAPERN this fall. If Cambridge switches and Harvard does not, Chafin says, the University Police will lose contact with the city.

Harvard Police currently use a sophisticated, $50,000 communications center that was purchased just last year when the department moved its headquarters from Grays Hall to 29 Garden St. Because of the new location, Chafin says, the average time that it takes for a police cruiser to reach its destination after an emergency radio call has decreased from three to two minutes.

SOS members say they are pleased by the changes in security over the summer and expect the campus to be safer this year. Nevertheless, they plan to push for further improvements, including better security in the Mather House area, an all-night escort service, and "victim advocacy" in rape cases. "It's not perfect and it never will be perfect," says Elisabeth A. Einaudi '83, former president of the organization. "But I think things are getting better."Eight new mercury-vapor lamps, slated to be installed at the Radcliffe Quad by mid-October, are part of the increasing effort to beef up security on campus.

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