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EDITORIAL: Making sense of it all

On December 13, 2005

It's hard to remember sometimes that Brandeis-an academic island in an ocean of Boston suburbia-is not impenetrable. It's hard to believe that random, awful acts of violence happen everywhere, even in the safest of communities. Perhaps our forgetfulness that crimes happen beyond the scope of rationality is what made last week's assaults on campus so horrifying.Boston thought so, too. A day after the Justice alerted the public to the attacks, the campus was awash with cameras and reporters, jumping on the dramatic story: A man sneaks into a girl's room while she is reading in bed in her underwear and carefully closes the door behind him. He pulls her out of bed grabs her round the waist, and repeatedly punches her in the face. As he holds her half on the bed, she kicks him in the stomach. Suddenly he drops her, and flees campus. Perfect for primetime TV.

But there are many of us for whom this assault-and the reports of a man entering three other rooms that night, touching the legs of two students while they were sleeping-is not just a gripping news story but a sickening reality. Brandeis students, staff and administrators are left wondering: Is there anything we can do to stop this from happening again?

Unfortunately, random violence is by definition almost impossible to actually prevent. But there are certain measures we can take to make it less likely that Brandeis students will be targeted in the future.
Firstly, the obvious suggestion: Lock your doors at night. It's wisdom we've all heard from parents, administrators and Public Safety, but the fact is that if the above-mentioned students had done so, the violent stranger would never have entered their rooms. Also, alert the police if you see anyone suspicious on campus. It may make the police log more colorful, but it's also another easy way to prevent unwanted visitors.

If the school is serious about thwarting such acts in the future, we suggest that it installs clearly-marked security cameras at the entrance of each residence hall, which would act as a deterrent to trespassers. Students would need to decide whether we want to sacrifice our privacy for our security, as there's no saying for sure whether the administration might use Friday night party-scene footage against us, but it's an option to consider. Also, the University should station an officer at the front gate at night to check the identity of each incoming vehicle or pedestrian, as it did in response to terrorist threats in 2003. Finally, Public Safety should install an alarm system, to alert the police whenever a door is propped open, already present on newer buildings.

Regardless, Public Safety's reaction has been admirable. Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan says there are significantly more officers on duty, and he has enlisted members of the Waltham police to help guard the campus. A quick drive around campus makes this obvious. All dorm entrances that were propped open are now closed, and Callahan says this increased protection will remain as long as necessary. The extra protection is an appreciated comfort.

Ultimately, it's disappointing that a cozy, safe campus like ours is forced to take these precautions. Brandeis' openness to the world is part of what makes it special, and it is a shame for our campus to be constricted.
The editorial board extends our sympathy to all of the victims. The student who was most brutalized by the incident, Charlotte Benham '07, reminds us with her bravery and positive attitude how important it is to learn from the attacks... and move on.

So remember, be careful who you let in to your dorm and-one more time-lock your doors.


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