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I never leave home sweet Weld worried about how I’m going to get back. But after a Mather party last Friday night, I found myself with limited options for returning to my dorm. According to the shuttle schedule, there are no shuttles running between Mather and the Yard between midnight and 1 a.m. on Friday nights. Calling Shuttle Services for van service seemed a little extreme, so my only option was to walk back.
A little concerned for my safety, I decided to call the Harvard University Campus Escort Program (HUCEP), but not without some reluctance. Social norms dictate that no man, no Harvard man, no “real” man, should be afraid to walk a puny half mile across a well-populated college campus at midnight. I, like all other Harvard men, didn’t like the idea of being escorted somewhere. No one wants to be seen having his hand held crossing Mount Auburn Street. No one likes admitting that he is a potential target of a nighttime crime.
Judging from the statistics of HUCEP’s usage, I’m not alone in my hesitation. Lots of Harvard students have trouble letting go of their pride and using HUCEP: My escorts said that I was only their fourth call that night and the first male. This must change: Students—males too—are risking their safety by continuing to walk alone at night. In order for more students to feel comfortable calling HUCEP, we must destigmatize its use by taking advantage of the service and using it frequently.
Although students use HUCEP far more frequently than they its predecessor SafetyWalk—HUCEP averages 13 calls per night whereas SafetyWalk’s busiest month had 9 calls—most students continue to believe that the service is only for single, tiny girls. Women benefit most from using the service because they are statistically at the highest risk for sexual assault, but anyone walking alone at night can use the extra safety.
Students also shouldn’t hesitate to contact HUCEP even if they’re walking in groups. Students, being social animals, tend to walk around campus with their friends. Encouraging groups to use HUCEP would lend a relaxed air to the service, which would make students more apt to use it.
Although the walkers aren’t constantly escorting someone, HUCEP is still a very useful service. Many students already use HUCEP—the walkers have escorted students over 600 times since its inception in February. And more importantly, HUCEP has quickly become a recognizable safety presence on campus. Most of us know at least one person who works as an escort. Even if no student ever used it, the service would still be worth keeping—if only as a neighborhood watchdog.
When their safety is at stake, students should never be ashamed to call HUCEP. And come to think of it, being escorted to Weld wasn’t even that embarrassing—it was nice to have company on the long walk home.
Matthew S. Meisel ’07, a Crimson editorial comper, lives in Weld Hall.
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