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Male Undergrad Victim of Hate Crime

By Alice E. M. Underwood and Victoria L. Venegas, Crimson Staff Writers

A male Harvard undergraduate was the victim of a hate crime and robbery on Sunday, according to a Harvard University Police Department crime report released yesterday.

The student was walking down Garden Street from the Quad when three unidentified men began pursuing him and whispering homophobic slurs such as “fag” and “queer.” After chasing him onto a side street, the suspects demanded the victim’s cell phone and wallet, which they threw on the ground before fleeing the area.

The student, who was not harmed during the crime, described the three suspects as white or Hispanic and in their early 20s.

Since the incident did not occur on Harvard property, it is being investigated by the Cambridge Police Department.

Harvard Queer Students and Allies Co-Chairs Marco Chan ’11 and Emma Q. Wang ’12 said that Harvard’s queer community and its allies were distressed by the incident, adding that hate crimes and acts of discrimination are not the norm at Harvard.

“This is an insulated incident as far as our campus goes, but not so isolated when we go beyond greater Boston and Massachusetts,” Chan said. “The message it sends to new students is particularly distressing since it’s so early in the year.”

Wang agreed that new students should not assume that such crimes are frequent at Harvard, noting that the University is generally an accepting place for members of the queer community.

HUPD Spokesman Steven G. Catalano also said that this type of crime is unusual for the Harvard area.

“Fortunately, the instances of bias-related incidents and bias crimes (“hate crimes”) on and around campus are relatively rare,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Although hate crimes directed against LGBT members of the Harvard community are uncommon, QSA has partnered with HUPD in the past to offer self-defense workshops specifically designed for LGBT students.

Wang said that while such workshops were offered, attendance was low, a fact she linked to a general sense of security on and around campus.

“The threat of violence is something that is kept in the back of one’s mind, and a self-defense workshop acknowledges that one can be the target for violence,” she said.

As a result of this latent attitude, Wang said the incident has made members of the LGBT community “more aware of their physical vulnerability.”

Chan said that this instance could become an opportunity for Harvard students­—not only LGBT individuals, but the wider community as well—to reflect on making Harvard a safe space for everyone.

He noted that QSA plans to address this crime—which represents a more pressing threat in other areas—through events, further self-defense workshops, and other outreach programs to ensure that Harvard remains a tolerant and supportive community.

“We don’t want queer people to feel like this has confirmed their suspicions that homophobia is the pervasive sentiment on campus,” she said, adding that LGBT people, allies, and the student community need to be proactive in addressing the reality of hate crimes.

“This is a space we all collectively have ownership over,” Chan said. “This whole environment is shared, built, and created by all of us, and no person, no student, no identity of any background should feel any level of insecurity.”

—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at aeunderw@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Victoria L. Venegas can be reached at vvenegas@college.harvard.edu.

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CrimeStudent GroupsLGBTQQuad