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Stupid Rules in the Escort Service



To the Editors of The Crimson:

One evening last spring I was in Harvard Square in the triangle by the T-stop. There was a party going on. A group of on-lookers ringed the party and occasionally threw objects and shouted anti-homosexual epithets. One of these spectators, a large man, leaned close to me and said, "Do you want to suck my cock?" and other similar statements.

I wanted to return to my dormitory at the law school, but to get out of the triangle, I would have had to go through the circle of abusive on-lookers... I was afraid to pass them because it was dark, and I was by myself, and the man who had harassed me was still there. So I called the campus police and described what had happened.

They told me to speak to the escort service and they connected me to them. I told the dispatcher what the problem was, but she said that I must either go and wait by Johnston Gate or at one of the campus buildings to have an escort. I explained that I had been sexually harassed and was in danger of being followed out of the triangle, which I would have to do to get to the gate or to a campus building.

The dispatcher replied that no exceptions could be made. I would have to go where she told me to go, and expose myself to the very risk from which I needed the escort to protect me. I pleaded with her to no avail, and finally went home unescorted.

At home, I phoned the escort service again, because I wanted to continue my discussion with the dispatcher. I reminded her that I had just been talking with her from Harvard Square. When I asked for her name, she hung up on me. I then called the campus police and asked to speak to the person who supervised the escort service.

The officer on duty said that the supervisor was unavailable, because he was providing security at a private function. Eventually, the officer admitted it was possible to reach the supervisor by radio, so I left him a message concerning my problems with the escort service.

The supervisor returned my phone call that evening. He first said that I should have contacted the police (which I told him I'd done in the first place). He then remarked that the dispatcher should have directed me to wait at Holyoke Center, an additional pickup point. He also said that he would ask her to apologize to me. I replied that I did not want the dispatcher's apology, but rather I wanted a change in the policy about where people could be picked up. I pointed out the following:

1. People seem to be more at risk on the perimeter of the campus, than within it, as the murder and rape last spring indicate; so there should be greater flexibility in responding to people off campus than on campus.

2. It is absurd to refuse to meet someone a hundred yards distance from a regular pickup point, when that person has explained that there is a clear danger in walking to the pickup point.

The supervisor insisted that such flexibility was not possible. He reiterated that I should have been told to go to Holyoke Center and said that this lapse on the part of the dispatcher was an anomaly. I pointed out that going to Holyoke Center might not have been substantially safer, since hostile people were all around the triangle and might easily have followed me there as well.

I also explained that the likely reason he found my problem with the escort service so unusual, was that it was very difficult to get a report through to him. I related how persistent I had been in trying to address the matter: I had called back the police, and had to argue with them for some time to get a message to the supervisor; and finally I was having this lengthy discussion with the supervisor, who refused to acknowledge that there was a policy issue involved.

The conclusion one can draw is that other people have had difficulties with the escort service, but haven't been perseverant enough to go through all the steps to bring the event to the supervisor's attention. That is, my experience may well not be an anomaly at all.

I urge the Harvard community to insist that the policy of the escort service be changed, so that escorts can meet people at whatever location the person needing an escort specifies, within a reasonable distance of the campus. Katya Komisaruk   Frst-year law student

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