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MacGregor Debates Windows' Safety

By Shawdee Eshghi
Staff Reporter

Window restraints in the lounges of the upper 12 student floors of MacGregor House will be reinforced this summer in order to make the windows safer for residents, according to Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski.

Latches that limit the windows' opening were installed in response to the suicide of Younes Borki '92 in 1990, one of three students who have jumped to their deaths from MacGregor's tower in the past several years. Since then many restraints have been removed or damaged.

This summer's repairs are prompted by the death of Melissa N. Ronge '98 just over two months ago, Jablonski said. The restraint had been removed from the 14th floor window from which Ronge jumped.

The idea for repairs was initiated by Macgregor Assistant House Master John Wilson, who voiced concern to RCA regarding possible alterations on the windows, including replacing them altogether.

A group consisting of Jablonski, Assistant Manager in the Housing Office John J. Ahern, Macgregor House Manager Robert T. Ramsay, House President Suma Dutta '97, and House Secretary Elaine H. Wong '97 was formed to discuss the matter and explore different options.

"We wanted to get a lot of perspectives on the issue and bring different people together to try and preserve ventilation [to the tower rooms] while maintaining safety," Wilson said.

Different changes explored

The group talked over a variety of options at its first meeting on April 17. Possibilities discussed included putting up bars and screens or completely replacing the single-paned windows with double-paned or triple-paned windows to restrict access.

Dutta and Wong later presented those ideas to a meeting of the MacGregor House Committee. All entries in the dorm have representation at House Committee meetings.

The possibility of a drastic change was ruled out by the students immediately, Jablonski said. "The students were against putting up bars or screens due to ventilation and aesthetic concerns," she said.

"We were adamant about not having new windows," Wong added.

"However, the students understand that there have been a few suicides from the same entry in the past few years," Wong said, and that perhaps some kind of change could act as a deterrent.

With that goal in mind, the MacGregor House Committee presented RCA last week with a proposal outlining minor adjustments in favor of increased safety, Dutta said.

The proposal states that all the latches on the windows in MacGregor's A-, B-, C-, and D-entry lounges will be adjusted to limit how far they can open to four inches. Currently the windows open up to six inches. The windows in individual rooms open to four inches at the present time, but they will be rechecked this summer, according to Dutta.

The proposal also suggests that the windows in the lounges be checked on a monthly basis beginning in the fall, Jablonski said.

"The proposal strikes the balance between ventilation and safety that was sought after," Wilson said.

"Residents are happy with the plan," Wong said.

In general, the solution process was a smooth one. "We were very pleased to see the students' opinions taken so seriously," Wong said. "Significant input was taken from the students at the meeting," Wilson said. "We felt genuine concern and interest in our opinions from RCA," Dutta added.

But some residents are unsure how much of a difference proposed changes would make.

"I don't see how fixing the windows is going to help in any way to deter someone who is set on doing something like" jumping, MacGregor C-entry resident Paul W. Pine '99 said. "They're just going to find another outlet."

A. Arif Husain contributed to the reporting of this story.