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Harvard Adams Residents Express Monthslong Frustration With Security After Theft

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Adams House residents blamed lax security for the theft of more than $8,000 worth of possessions from a Randolph Hall dorm on Saturday night, pointing to unaddressed reports about a malfunctioning gate that has remained unremedied since the renovated building opened in July.

Four undergraduate residents reported to building management and the Harvard University Police Department on Sunday that their laptops and iPads were stolen from their dorm while they were out of their room. HUPD later reported that they opened an investigation into the incident, which remains ongoing as of Thursday.

Residents and tutors told The Crimson that it is common for a Plympton Street gate leading into Randolph Hall’s courtyard to close improperly, and that efforts to fix the gate have gone unheeded.

Adams senior resident tutor Santiago Pardo Sanchez ’16 wrote in a statement to The Crimson that he has filed 10 work orders about multiple gates and doors leading into the courtyard and dorm, adding that they have been defective since at least July.

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Sanchez wrote that despite receiving “work order completed” notices from the House Renewal team, the gate purportedly used during the theft remains unfixed. Sanchez wrote that Adams affiliates have received a variety of responses from Harvard Renewal about the repair problems, including statements reporting malfunctions due to cold weather and the fact that “doors usually have issues for the first few months.”

“It’s evident that when Harvard heard that they needed to stop gatekeeping, they took it literally instead of figuratively,” Sanchez wrote.

“All reports that are filed are reviewed and remedied as quickly as possible,” University Spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in a statement. “We encourage students to continue to report any concerns through the proper channels.”

The troubled gate was padlocked shut by house staff on Sunday.

Seattle L. Hickey ’25 said she “loves” being an Adams House resident, but added that her dorm room “doesn’t feel as safe” since her backpack and devices were stolen.

“That’s a scary feeling to have,” she said.

Hickey cited the financial burden of replacing her technology as particularly stressful, adding that it has been difficult to receive support from administration.

“It feels like we’re in a bureaucratic ping pong match and we’re just getting pushed to different places,” she said.

Resident tutor Danielle Gunderman wrote that despite the University’s practice to not reimburse students for items stolen from their dorms, she believes this situation should “warrant an exception to this policy.”

“The Randolph Courtyard gate was stuck open on the night of the theft, and the theft followed six months of concerned reports from House and Residential staff,” she wrote. “The dorm entrance door closest to my students’ room from the courtyard was also not working and unsecured on the night of the theft, another issue for which tutors have previously submitted maintenance requests to House Renewal.”

Gunderman added that the House Renewal project has not been proactive in responding to student work orders about the gate’s malfunctions.

“The House Renewal team’s months of inaction meant Harvard failed to provide either level of security, leaving my students’ room accessible to anyone,” she wrote.

The House Renewal team did not respond to requests for comment about Gunderman’s concerns.

According to HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano, most offenders find their way into locked buildings by “finding propped doors or piggybacking in with someone who has access to the building.”

On Monday, Adams House Administrator Matthew Burke wrote an email about the incident to Adams residents, urging students to make sure their doors lock properly when closed and report any malfunctioning locks to the house.

Burke also mentioned the malfunctioning lock on Plympton Street gate and asked that residents avoid use of the gate.

“The safety and security of our community are paramount,” he wrote. “Please continue to report any faulty or malfunctioning locks anywhere in Adams House.”

Correction: March 4, 2024

A previous version of this article mispelled Santiago Pardo Sanchez’s last name.

—Staff writer Sally E. Edwards can be reached at sally.edwards@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @sallyedwards04 or on Threads @sally_edwards06.

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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