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Dissenting Opinion: Safety After Dark

By Lucy M. Caldwell, None

The Crimson Staff is correct in its assessment that students ought to take personal precautions in unsafe times. This is partly achieved through simple steps such as walking with companions late at night or calling upon the complementary Harvard University Campus Escort Program (HUCEP) when alone in an isolated area. However, the Staff’s suggestion that this crime wave has come about primarily because of lack of attention by students to their personal safety ignores several key factors at play in this issue.

First, the Staff glosses over the substantial role that the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) does and should play in ensuring student safety. Rather than request that HUPD internally review its strategies in campus crime prevention or even encourage HUPD to engage with community members about their needs, the Staff dismisses such steps as the impulses of self-entitled students trying to shift blame away from themselves.

Additionally, the Staff implies that students’ late night habits are to blame in this crime wave, a suggestion that ignores the reality of life at Harvard College In addition to maintaining a 24-hour library, Harvard readily encourages student groups to hold meetings in campus facilities late into the evening and even allows courses to meet at night, forcing many students to make their way back to dorms long after dusk. Given that the University has not only accommodated but also incentivized our late night lifestyle, some onus inevitably shifts onto the administration to expand security budgets or explore new safety measures to protect students. A University should not put a price on student safety.

Finally, the Staff’s view of campus security neglects to address the way in which this is a gender issue. Female undergraduates face far more threats to their safety and are assaulted at much higher rates than men. Blue light stations provide little consolation for the real fear women regularly face at night as they walk alone through pitch-black streets, passing threatening alleys every few yards. Surely, women must take some degree of responsibility for their personal security—a pitfall of some women’s advocacy groups is that they inaccurately envision a world in which women may travel as freely as men without worries—but in a school-type setting, a woman’s life can’t stop after sundown.

The Staff points out that Harvard is an urban college. Urban or not, we are still college students and not Manhattanites, and this is an educational community, not a metropolis. Our campus is not “the real world”—and the same paternalism that prohibits us from using our fireplaces or appliances in our dorms out of an attention to safety should be directed at ensuring our protection as we stroll from Mass. Ave. to our dorms along the Charles.

Lucy M. Caldwell ’09 is a history and literature concentrator in Adams House.

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