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Staff Opinion on HUPD Disingenuous, Biased

Letter to the Editors

By Robert W. Iuliano

To the editors:

I am writing in response to The Crimson’s staff editorial, “Veritas on the Beat,” published on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Whatever the appropriateness of The Crimson editorializing about its own lawsuit, the Harvard community has the right to expect that The Staff not abandon its fundamental notions of fairness and accuracy. Instead, the Crimson editorial involved the highly-selective use of facts to create an impression of “cover up” and “corruption” that does not exist. In doing so, The Crimson has disserved its readers and compromised the good working relationship that the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) has had with student reporters in recent years.

The Crimson’s editorial was irresponsible in its representation of the HUPD, in many cases rehashing allegations nearly ten years old, and in its description of the records that The Crimson is seeking. In articles published over the summer, and in legal papers that it filed, The Crimson made clear that it wants copies of HUPD incident reports, including reports about sensitive matters such as attempted suicides and sexual assaults. The details in these reports, including specific locations, physical descriptions of victim, and witness testimony, risk disclosing victims’ identities and jeopardizing privacy considerations. HUPD has demonstrated its commitment to sharing information about safety and security with the members of the Harvard community. This does not mean, however, that it will or should impinge on the privacy of students who require medical assistance or who have been the victims of sexual assault or other crimes. In each instance, the daily and weekly police logs, which are provided to The Crimson and many others on campus, make clear that such an incident took place. Thus, contrary to what is implied by the editorial, The Crimson already has the ability to “discern trends in campus crimes” and other events.

The editorial’s omission of relevant information was also surprising. Particularly notable was the editorial’s failure to reference HUPD’s repeated offers to consider with The Crimson whether it would be appropriate to expand the substantial information about campus safety and security already made available to the Harvard community. Also excluded was any mention that I am in the process of forming an advisory group to examine these issues—a group in which The Crimson has been asked to participate. The Crimson knew of the formation of this committee almost a week before it published the editorial but made no mention of it. Finally, one would have expected the editorial to acknowledge that the Secretary of the Commonwealth has determined on multiple occasions that HUPD is not subject to the public records law, the very issue presented by The Crimson’s lawsuit.

HUPD is a highly professional organization, dedicated to protecting and serving the members of the Harvard community. The Crimson’s attack on the Department’s integrity and reputation was both unfounded and regrettable. As The Crimson Staff is well aware, the Department also stands ready to participate in an advisory group that I am establishing. I hope that The Crimson will take the same opportunity.

Robert W. Iuliano
Sept. 26, 2003

The writer is Harvard’s Vice President and General Counsel.

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