THE annual Take Back the Night week at Harvard can be a union of women against violence, a symbolic show of support for every person's right to control his or her own body or a call for awareness of sexual assault.
But Take Back the Night is also a very specific protest for specific improvements to student safety. The program has received so much support in the past because it speaks to the needs of Harvard students and the Cambridge community, declaring publicly that Harvard's security measures are terribly inadequate.
THIS year, in the wake of widely publicized violence on campus, the protest for student safety especially deserves the attendance of all Harvard students interested in their own bodily protection.
The December rape at the Science Center has met with the addition of just one extra afternoon security guard. The Science Center has no beeper or alarm system for its workers or its students. Public telephones are located only on the basement floor of the building. The worker or student in the Science Center is hardly safer now than at the time of the rape.
The two March nighttime assaults on students outside Boylston Hall and Widener library have led to no additions to Harvard Yard security. Few lights and rather scattered, often nonfunctional phones make Harvard students and their friends easy targets. It is for those who walk through Harvard Yard--and other parts of the campus--to provide their own protection.
Past years have seen dorm break-ins from students and non-students. The lack of security in the Yard threatens the non-Harvard community as well; attacks include a 1987 beating, allegedly by five Harvard seniors, on two 14-year-old boys.
BUT none of these attacks has *** Harvard to make any significant security innovations. While the addition of lights to the Yard is under review by a "security committee" and subject to approval by the Historical Commission, the Yard remains, physically, the same dim and dangerous area of frequent attacks.
Instead, the greatest security initiative has come from students. One new program is SafeStreets, an organization based in the Science Center that accompanies students through the Yard, where the Harvard Escort Service does not run. The new Model Mugging program provides self-defense instruction. Response, now in its fifth year, offers counseling on sexual violence and abuse.
The burst of efforts on the part of Harvard students to decrease fear on campus reveals more than the need for campus safety. The volunteers who are working to protect the rest of the Harvard community should make us aware not just of campus crime, but of the University's extreme negligence of student safety.
Students should not have to provide their own safety mechanisms. Students should not have to protest, every year, for small safety improvements on campus. But they do.
Harvard knows that students care enough about their physical protection to take action to improve campus safety. The Take Back the Night rally, tonight at 8:30 in front of Memorial Church, is every student's opportunity to convince Harvard to care as well.
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