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Women Graduate Students Highlight Safety Concerns

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Chairman of the Corporation Paul E. Gray '56 and President Charles M. Vest.

As women graduate students at MIT, we strongly urge you to search for a more safety-conscious solution to the current housing problem and to reconsider the Strategic Housing Planning Committee (SHPC) proposal to build a new graduate dormitory at the intersection of Sidney and Pacific streets. We recognize that this complex, multifaceted issue will require some compromise. However, the personal safety of students should not in any way be compromised.

Fear, plain and simple, would deter many female students from moving to a dangerous area of Cambridge. In addition to the threat of mugging, physical attack and murder, as women, we are especially susceptible to sexual assault and rape. A woman experiences fear, shock, shame, degradation, and humiliation during such crimes. In the aftermath, she is further haunted with shame, guilt, loss of self-worth, and anger. A woman will never fully recover and significant portions of her future emotional life can be destroyed. In these times, with HIV becoming more widespread, rape is also life threatening.

Are you willing, Chairman Gray and President Vest, to take responsibility when a violent crime occurs between 77 Massachusetts Avenue and the intersection of Sidney and Pacific? How would you feel if it were your own daughters whose safety were being jeopardized?

We must learn from experience concerning the threatening surrounding neighborhood of our urban institution. Certainly, it is not wise to turn a blind eye toward the numerous muggings and assaults which have taken place in very close proximity to the MIT campus. Following the tragic murder of our fellow student Yngve K. Raustein '94, the Campus Police issued a statement advising students to walk through the MIT buildings because the perimeter of campus was not safe. "It is a sad fact, but it is unsafe to walk the campus perimeter and city streets after dark, particularly late at night," wrote Campus Police Chief Anne P Glavin ["Glavin Responds to SafeWalk Concerns," March 29, 1994]. Now we are being asked to ignore this sound advice and move into what is known to be a crime-ridden area.

Regardless of what attractive facilities or favorable design the new residence may offer, for a wide majority of women safety is the number one priority for their living environment. The SHPC proposal does not include a plan for making the area safe in either the short or long term.

Safe on-campus housing is not only an extremely important issue among the current student body, but will also influence future MIT applicants, especially women. First-rate prospective female students will be lost to other graduate schools if housing options at MIT exist primarily in unsafe, high-crime areas. Women compose a small minority of the graduate student population, and it would be unfortunate to discourage them even further.

Although the administrators involved in the decision-making process primarily are men, we hope that they will carefully consider the perspective of women. It is imperative to pursue other locations for the new dormitory.

Laura E. Adams G

Katherine J. Holden G

Kathleen M. Misovec G

Michele Tesciuba G

and 65 others