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After Hollis Incident, First-Year Deans Install Bathroom Locks

By Marc J. Ambinder, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Starting today, some first-years will need a key to use their bathrooms.

Crews from Facilities Maintenance Operations will spend the day installing locks on bathroom doors accessible from common hallways, the Freshman Dean's Office announced Friday.

The new security measures come in response to an incident nearly two weeks ago in which a Hollis Hall resident found a homeless man in her shower.

The man, a 21-year-old from New York, was accosted but was let go last week by officers from the Harvard University Police Department, officials said.

The dormitories affected include Greenough, Hollis, Stoughton, Thayer and Weld, and the first floor of Canaday, according to a note distributed to the affected students.

The Assistant Deans of Freshmen who signed the letter, David B. Fithian, D.E. Lorraine Sterritt and Eleanor A. Sparagana, were not available for comment this weekend.

Merle A. Bicknell, manager of Harvard Yard facilities, said the new security measures underlie a more important security concern.

"We're trying to get the word out to the freshmen that they really should treat their dorm as their home," she said.

Specifically, she said, she wants all students to ask to see the identification of all who seek entry to a first-year dorm.

Bicknell said that after the Hollis shower incident, she "dressed in casual clothes" and tried to access all the first-year dorms without identification or a card key.

"I was able to walk in without being questioned every time," she said.

Questioning strangers, then, "is the message we need to get out," she said.

Some students said they will not mind the bathroom locks.

"It's not a serious inconvenience, since we lock our doors and we're supposed to carry our keys with us anyway," said Thayer resident Steven P. Schwartzberg '01.

But another Thayer resident disagreed.

"It would be more of a hassle than a benefit," said Li-Chung Chen '01.

Weld resident M. Mariet Rehavi '01 echoed Bicknell's concern about security, but said that the security problem brought to light by the man's trespassing wouldn't be addressed by locking bathroom doors.

"My biggest concern is how someone who's not supposed to be here got into the dorm," Rehavi said.

In comments posted in the "Forum" section of The Crimson's Web site, Weld resident Arvin T. Chang '01 called the locks an "overreaction to such a specific and unusual case."

"I believe that--if anything--the deans should concentrate on how he entered the building," Chang wrote. "I cannot see how adding locks to common bathrooms would improve security."

Adam E. Cohen '01, another Weld resident, predicted that students may work around the bathroom locks so that any inconvenience will remain minimal.

"A lot of people will circumvent this by propping the doors open," he said. "If you've got to go and you've forgotten your key, it would be unpleasant."

The Hollis incident is not the only occasion in recent years in which non-Harvard-affiliated people have been found in Harvard bathrooms.

After a similar incident in Matthews Hall two years ago, bathroom combination locks were installed there, Bicknell said.

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