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Update Feb. 3, 2004

The Tech published a follow-up article, Harvard/MIT Matchup Service Will Keep Contacts Anonymous, on Feb. 3, 2004.

Matchup Participants File Many Complaints

By Marissa Vogt

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Harvard University students filed a series of harassment complaints with MIT and Harvard campus police in connection with the MIT-Harvard-Wellesley Matchup service offered this past February.

Both universities and MIT Stopit received complaints from female students at Harvard Law School about persistent e-mails they received from Jonathan Monsarrat ’89, the matchup’s creator and operator.

Nicole J. DeSario, a student at Harvard Law School, said that “there’s been a lot of people who have been hearing from him even when they don’t respond to him.”

DeSario said in an e-mail to the MIT Young Alumni Club that Monsarrat had “admitted in some of his e-mails that he went through the results by hand to pick people to contact above and beyond those who he would be matched with.”

DeSario said that she originally addressed her complaint to matchup-request@mit.edu, the address listed on the Web site for the matchup, http://www.mit.edu/ matchup.

After she did not receive a response, DeSario said that she suspected that Monsarrat was the only person receiving mail from that address, so she sent her complaint to the MIT Young Alumni Club, which is listed on the web site as a sponsor of the service. The club then filed a complaint with MIT Stopit.

The complaint DeSario sent to the MIT Young Alumni Club said that Monsarrat contacted at least one woman after she repeatedly asked him to stop, and quotes Monsarrat as saying to one participant, “you’ve made me wait too long; I am getting impatient.”

The complaint also mentioned Monsarrat’s communication with another participant.

“He started sending her charts of his weight loss, promising that he would lose more weight in the future ... and begging her to meet up with him,” DeSario said.

Monsarrat referred to the second attempt at contacting each match as a “follow up e-mail” and said that he used two form e-mails when contacting a potential match.

The second e-mail, Monsarrat said, included the text “Forgive my persistence. And I know you’re busy. Life is short, and I just hate to lose a good opportunity. I don’t want to be rude, though, so ... if you don’t reply I’ll have to give up on you.”

E-mails not legally harassment

De Sario said that she met with Harvard University police last Friday and that a “cease and desist” letter will be sent to Monsarrat informing him of police involvement in the matter and saying that further e-mails to Harvard students will result in criminal prosecution.

Monsarrat said that he has not been contacted by either the MIT or Harvard University police.

DeSario said that the e-mails would probably not legally be considered harassment, but that “certainly what we have here is an unethical situation.”

Abuse and harassment, Monsarrat said, are “very loaded words”.

He called the complaints “flame wars” and said, “most people don’t take editorials in the student newspaper seriously. I don’t think they’ll believe the flame wars,” Monsarrat said.

Survey information mishandled

DeSario estimates the number of people repeatedly contacted by Monsarrat as “potentially hundreds of people,” though she says she personally knows of only 10 who have come forward.

“Just about everybody I’ve talked to at Harvard Law School has been contacted by this guy,” DeSario said.

Monsarrat, who also participated in the matchup service, said that he had heard of complaints about his personal use of data from the service, but said “I kind of don’t get that. I signed up like everybody else. There was no privacy policy.”

Monsarrat said that he received 100 matches through the matchup, and contacted all of them. Each participant in the matchup was given 20 possible matches and people who referred a friend got more than 20.

Monsarrat said that he referred a friend, and called the fact that he received 100 matches “not at all unusual,” though he was “the only volunteer” who received that many matches.

Participants in the matchup were paired using computer software that Monsarrat said he designed after what he considered to be a good match to him. He then generalized the properties of a good match and used the software to give participants their matches.

SIPB granted Web address

Some members of the Student Information Processing Board, which was responsible for granting Monsarrat the Web address used for the matchup’s Web site, recognized the questionable uses that the matchup could have. The matchup Web address points to Monsarrat’s home directory on Athena.

“I totally think it’s a way for [Monsarrat] to get dates,” said Richard J. Barbalace ’97 in a SIPB zephyr conversation on Feb. 8, recorded in SIPB’s zephyr logs. “Why would anybody ever set up any type of matching service unless a) they were trying to make money, and/or b) they were trying to get dates? ... But that seems like a perfectly fine fringe benefit to organizing it.”

“I would actually worry that he’s going to contact them at a later date, under some other pretext, and in bulk,” replied Camilla Fox ’00. “You don’t ordinarily expect a dating service to expose you to that, or for a dating service creep to contact everybody.”

Monsarrat said he hopes to run the matchup again in June, this time offering participants unlimited matches. The new version of the matchup, Monsarrat said, will allow participants to search the database.

SIPB Chair Chris T. Laas G said in an e-mail that “at this time, the SIPB has received no official complaint. We will rely on the judgement of the MIT authorities” in the matter of a June matchup.