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Hold Schools Accountable



LAST week, a deranged man took 33 hostages in a bar, killing one man and sexually molesting several women. The location was the University of California at Berkeley. A month ago, a serial killer--still at large--stalked and murdered five students at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

With such campus nightmares splashed across the front pages and the network news, the myth that universities are safe havens for the nation's youth is rapidly disappearing. The need has never been greater for the bill currently pending before Congress to force colleges to publish statistics on campus crime.

The bill, which could arrive on President Bush's desk for passage this week, requires colleges to publish campus crime statistics annually or risk losing federal aid. Similar legislation has already been enacted in several states, but the federal version has met with opposition from the Bush Administration. Now, before any more deranged killers offer more reasons to do so, the "kinder and gentler" President must sign the legislation.

Campus crime statistics will hold universities accountable for the safety of their students. Safe schools would attract more students and those notoriously lax on security measures would have to shape up to compete.

Thus the free market would prevail. Publishing crime statistics will do more than scare students; it will lead to increased campus security and thus, lower incidence of crime.

HERE at Harvard, campus police are one step ahead of the national trend. Responding to the federal movement as well as the clamor of local legislators such as Cambridge State Rep. Alvin E. Thompson, Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) has wisely decided to publish campus crime statistics annually.

The numbers for last year--16 assaults with a deadly weapon, three sexual assaults, 127 burglaries--show both that security problems persist on campus, and for the case of sexual assaults, they persist much more than reported. Publishing these numbers--and working to make them more accurate--is an important first step; the next should be to reduce those numbers. Harvard must take several key steps to make this campus genuinely safe for students:

Run the shuttle bus 24 hours on weekends. The recent decision to run all afternoon on weekends makes life more convenient for Quad-dwellers, but barely safer.

.Fund the escort service so that it provides more prompt and reliable transportation. The University admits in the phone book that the escort service cannot be used for safety on a regular basis.

.Increase lighting in the Yard at night. The University claims that lights would detract from the nocturnal beauty of ancient brick edifices. But there is little difference between subtle and just plain dangerous when it comes to lighting at night in Cambridge.

.Increase the number of foot patrols. Officers walking the beat increase police visibility as well as day-to-day contact between students and officers. Squad cars may be warmer and more comfortable, but foot patrols have been shown time and time again to be more effective at reducing street crime.

Recent events have shown that universities are not insulated from America's rampant crime. Implementing these proposals are the least the University could do to keep students safe on campus.

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