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Employee Attacked at Media Lab

By Eric Richard
Contributing Editor

On March 15, an individual posing as a janitor assaulted an employee of the Media Laboratory when asked for identification.

According to a Campus Police report, a Media Lab staff member confronted the individual about a bulge under his jacket. The individual then struck the staff member in the face and fled the premises.

The bulge was a laptop computer, an Apple Macintosh Powerbook belonging to Technical Services, according to an electronic mail message from Gregory L. Tucker, research engineer at the Media Lab.

The Powerbook was the only item reported stolen, according to Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

The staff member was not seriously hurt in the attack, Tucker said.

There has also been a separate report of a person following a Media Lab employee into an elevator after hours and gaining access to the upper floors, according to Tucker.

However, no formal complaint of the second incident has been made. "No one has come to us to say that this incident happened," Glavin said. Glavin said that the Campus Police is in the process of investigating the March 15 assault.

No suspect identified

"We believe that we have identified the individual responsible," Glavin said. But "the hard part is that the victim cannot positively identify the suspect," she added.

The Campus Police has received information identifying the assailant's vehicle, Glavin said.

"We suspect [the person] had an idea of where he was going," Glavin said. "It isn't clear how [the individual] got in the Media Lab," but it seems that he simply walked in, she added.

In addition, no other individuals were found who could identify the assailant. "We've turned over every stone that we have," Glavin said.

Incident raises safety questions

"We've sent out warnings to people about the incident and warned them not to confront suspicious individuals," said Lauren H. Gallant, administrative officer at the Media Lab.

"Our primary concern ... is that we don't want individuals running into confrontations like this fellow did," Glavin said. "Sometimes, despite the best laid plans it is difficult" to keep people out, she said.

"If you see somebody who looks suspicious to you, call us immediately," Glavin said.

These incidents have prompted Nicholas P. Negroponte '66, director of the Media Lab, to address the issue of security in the Media Lab.

"As a number of you know, we are experiencing more and more crime at the Media Lab," Negroponte said in an electronic message posted to the media lab. "During the nine years ... of occupancy of the Wiesner Building, we have been blessed with a high degree of safety and with an absolute minimum of theft."

Negroponte proposed additions to the Media Lab's security system, but he concluded, "In the final analysis, the only way we can combat this problem is to keep our collective attention high, have our eyes and ears open, and be alert and ready to help."