Welcome to the Hotel Harvard

This place never ceases to amaze me. I normally don’t blog about my work evenironment, but an incident that occured yesterday warrants a blog posting.

Around 10:30 in the morning I had to go to the photocopier to make some copies of legal documents associated with Regina’s estate. Being a small academic building, there are only 13 people working on my floor (the fifth and top floor) and the first floor consists soleley of class rooms. Anyway, the photocopier is in it’s own room with a door.

I was apparently the first person to use the copier yesterday because the door was shut. I opened it and went to the copier to warm it up. I didn’t turn on the lights because the lights from the hallway were bright enough for me to see what I needed to see. After a few minutes, the machine had warmed up and I made my copies. I then left the room, leaving the door open.

About 45 minutes later, a co-worker from across the hall came by my office and quietly asked: “Are you aware that there is a man sleeping in the copy room?”


So, he and I walk back to the copy room and, lo and behold, there were a pair of legs sticking out from behind the photocopier! Apparently, this co-worker went in there to make some copies, turned on the lights, and then heard some snoring. The police were called and they woke the squatter up. After some loud conversation, he was escorted out of the building. Presumably he was a homeless man finding shelter from the nor’easter we’d been dealing with for the past week. Still, I can’t figure out how he found this building since it’s just outside densely populated Harvard Square. In fact, this building isn’t even on a street…it’s behind a bunch of other buildings.

At the time, I found it quite humorous and was laughing about the situation. But then I started getting somewhat angry. Without going into too much detail, I can say that my floor houses some HIGHLY famous and controversial figures. In fact, they are both just across the hall from me (I can see into their suite from my office door. In the 5 years that I’ve been here, there have been numerous crazy people coming by to get access to these faculty members (we call the police and they get escorted away..sometimes calmly, sometimes screaming). To date, there have been no actual physical assaults. But in addition to the actual visits, the assistants of those faculty members get frequent death threats and hate mail. Interestingly enough, one of the faculty members has practically wall-papered the entrance vestibule to this office with his hate mail. It makes for fascinating reading.

A few years ago, these incidents had increased to the point that a wall was constructed to protect those faculty members and their staff. Of course, nothing was done to protect me. I brought it to the attention of the administation that if people can’t get to see those guys, they’ll just walk into my door (and that is what happens). So, they installed a panic button under my desk that connects right to the police station.

I just don’t understand why this campus (like so many other urban campuses) can’t go to an access card system for entry to the buildings. The dorms already work this way, as do other Harvard colleges. Why are those people’s safety more important than ours? The response I get is that the law school wants to maintain an “open and welcoming” environment. That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t think it’s necessary to welcome “everybody”. The campus already has an underground tunnel system connected all of the buildings except for the dormitories. Couldn’t there be an access card system to access the surface level entrances and then the entire tunnel network would be accessible without access cards?

Perhaps I’m over-reacting. In this case, it was just a homeless man seeking shelter. This time. But if he found it so easy to find a place to sleep overnight, what’s going to stop somebody with more devious motives? What if I was working alone late the night before and had to make copies? What if this guy was waiting to attack (instead of nap)?  I mean, I was in this room for at least 5 minutes with this guy and had no clue he was there. True, I guess it’s a sign that I should be more observant of my surroundings…but I shouldn’t have to peek behind every door and look behind every trash can before entering a room, either.

I worked for the home office of a retail company in a suburban office park (with no high-profile people) and we had tighter security than this.


  1. Comment by jeff on May 27, 2005 11:14 am

    damn, that’s unnerving

  2. Comment by Brad on May 27, 2005 11:40 am

    I work in the same building and know that we’ve had these security issues for some time. The way my office is designed, it is not uncommon for me to come in either late at night or on the weekend, and find the whole place wide open. We’ve got some pretty controversial high profile characters aruond here and it’s a shame that while each of them have doors on their offices, the rest of us get “wide open (unsecure) space”. It doesn’t do much for one’s morale.

  3. Comment by David on May 27, 2005 11:58 am

    I smell a strike!!
    Get some of those Harvard students.
    They love to protest.
    Hell No We Wont Go!
    Until Our Office Buildings get more Secure!!
    We don’t want Brad and Karl to get killed,
    Fer Sure!!

  4. Comment by Will on May 27, 2005 12:38 pm

    Here at MIT we have some (not the majority) of buildings on card entry after 6pm but as many of our buildings are linked to each other, there is constant through traffic. So people constantly exiting just hold the doors open for those waiting to get in. Security rating: 0

    In those buildings that are open 24 hours, there are rooms that are extremely valuable to groups that need rehearsal space, always at a premium locally. One theater group was coming in off the street and rehearsing in a classroom off The Infinite Corridor for something like eight months before anyone caught on that they weren’t an MIT student activity. Security rating: -2

    The night cleaning crew leaves something to be desired sometimes. We come in occasionally to find that they have been using the costume shop sewing machines and, while we have no positive proof, a whole bolt of muslin (about 70 yards) and some costume items have disappeared without any documentable reason. I can argue the advantages of “the open campus” several different ways.

  5. Comment by Underling on May 30, 2005 10:01 pm

    Okay, I’m not understanding why offices at Harvard Law are not protected by access cards, but my welfare office in Oklahoma is secured not just by access cards, but by number coded key pads on all doors.

    It just doesn’t seem right. And how did the homeless man gain entrance to your building completely unnoticed. I mean, I understand that they want the doors “open” to give an open and welcome environment, but I would think they would then at least have someone watching some security cameras or something.

  6. Comment by karyn on May 31, 2005 8:07 am

    Poor Snarl. This must have sent your already twirly psyche into a tailspin. Particularly in a place where there are high profile types receiving large volumes of crazy visitors and hate mail, security is well warranted. And as a former “out front” person, I can vouch for the outrage and indignation you are feeling here; like, ‘we have taken all these steps to protect Mr.X. You, however, are on your own. Brush up on that karate you took when you were 7 because you might need it. Good luck.’

    I think it is disgraceful that Harvard – Harvard Law, no less , of all places, won’t pony up for a tighter security system.

    And worse (sorry) is that in a city as wealthy as Boston, in a country as wealthy as the U.S., there is still homelessness that warrants the need for someone to scrounge around and seek shelter from the elements. In a copy room.

    It’s so sad.

  7. Comment by deb on May 31, 2005 3:51 pm

    Yikes, stripes, Karl….don’t like the sound of that AT ALL. Come to Vega…all is safe. If you go to CMT.com contest….a great fun pic of Mandell and I….you know, for your photo album…lol.

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