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New Safety Awareness Needed on Campus

Column by Bill Jackson

opinion editor

When did you first find out that one of us was gone?

A friend of mine was getting in the elevator at Baker House when he saw the sign for the meeting yesterday morning. A graduate student I know found out from a poster outside his lab. Another friend saw it on the front of the Herald.

I turned on the radio yesterday morning to hear the news. In between a story about defrocked psychiatrist Margaret Bean-Bayog and another about Europe's currency troubles, the announcer told me that one of us had died.

One of us. MIT isn't known for the camaraderie among its students, but we all have a basic understanding of each other. Like all of us, Yngve Raustein '94 had pulled all-nighters. He had trouble with a difficult class. He worked hard and, in another two years, he would have received a degree.

He was, police district boundaries not withstanding, on campus. It was 9:45 at night, not 2 in the morning. He was with a friend, not wandering alone. These three facts make the incident all the more frightening.

Up until now in my stay at MIT, I've been able to explain away most of the violence committed against students. "That's what you get for wandering up to Central Square at night," or "No wonder, considering that she was alone in the Fens at 3 a.m." But that doesn't work here. There is no easily found mistake in this case.

Raustein was on Memorial Drive, not on the river side, on the MIT side. He wasn't in one of the desolate, dark parts of the sidewalk, down on West Campus. He was right outside the library, a place most of us have been late at night at least once in our stay at MIT. It didn't quite happen inside our "campus boundaries" this time, but it's knocking on the front door.

And it certainly wasn't a ridiculous hour of the night to be out there. At 9:45 p.m. on a Friday most people are on their way to parties, ready to spend a few hours across campus or across the river before trekking home in the early morning hours, when it's "really" dangerous.

Finally, and I think most significantly, the victim was not walking alone. The attack on him and his male companion proves that it's time to get rid of our stereotypes that the lone female is the only person in danger on the streets around campus. A couple of guys just aren't supposed to be attacked. Right?

There is simply no way to write this one off. Yngve Raustein didn't make any obvious mistake, no error in judgment regarding the rules we have to live by on our urban campus. What has happened, as I realized the moment I heard about the incident on the radio, is that the rules have changed.

Sadly, it takes the loss of one of our fellow students to find this out, but now that we know the rules have changed, we have to start playing by them. Many suggest that MIT should be doing more for the safety of the community, and I agree with many of the suggestions, including a large-scale expansion of Safe Ride, better street and walkway lighting, and increased Campus Police foot patrols.

However, I would emphasize the approach we can all begin using right away; changing our own habits. The Harvard Bridge is not a safe place. Memorial Drive is dangerous. Even relatively innocuous-seeming areas, like the crosswalk at 77 Mass. Ave., attract a crowd of off-campus types late at night. Until campus safety measures can be vastly improved, MIT students would be wise to do what they despise the most: alter their schedule to better fit the daylight hours. Carpe Noctem is a fine motto, as long as you don't wander out into the night after seizing it.

Many people, particularly men, have said to me over the past few years that they were perfectly safe walking over the Harvard Bridge for a late-night "Tower run" or such. Those days are gone, not only for the stereotypical "lone female student," but for all of us. While the MIT, Boston University, and State Police did a fine job responding to this tragedy with speed, the fact is that the rapid response and subsequent capture of the assailants won't bring a fellow student back.

I beg each of you to use your head and play by the new rules. If we all learn this lesson, well, that's the only possible good that can come from Friday night's tragedy.