Safety and Security at MIT

An Engineering Analysis

by Captain John Dzenitis, Emmet Field Elementary School Safety Patrol, Retired


These are dangerous days. Despite the fact that we have chosen to reside in Academia for some period, the Real World crashes in on us from time to time. Sometimes, the Real World comes knocking at our door with a lucrative offer to become a swimsuit model, or perhaps a lucrative offer from a swimsuit model. More often, though, the real world comes knocking on our heads with a lead pipe and steals our money.

It was not always so. Certainly, there were always dangers for the MIT community: inhaling next to B.U. students fresh out of scotch-drinking class, or being run over by Hahvahd students in their parents' BMW's. But just as many B.U. students have turned to LSD (less volatile) and many Hahvahd students tool around in Lexuses (with pedestrian airbags), there has been an increase in other forms of danger and violence at MIT. The Campus Police swiftly responded with denials. Later, they created an automated spokesperson which issues a semiweekly statement to campus newspapers, ``Urban campus. Walk in groups. SafeRide.'' In all fairness to them, this is indeed a national trend. But so what?

If the important technical challenges of nebaquarknoids can wait for a few moments, perhaps we should turn our gigantic MIT brains towards tackling the more mundane and lethal problem of safety and security at MIT.

Problem Statement

One cannot underestimate the importance of a well-posed statement of the problem at hand. One possibility is, ``Evil'', but this is too general to be effectively analyzed here. It should be saved for some kind of rally. Another suggestion is, ``Getting your ass robbed or kicked or worse'', but these are really symptoms more than the essential problem. I therefore select a problem statement that is a compromise: ``Some darned people are unhappy and capable of violence.''

One term must be more carefully defined: violence. Here, I use its more traditional meaning of ``physical force used to harm''. This avoids the new and popular meaning of ``something I don't like'' (e.g., ``charging me this much for a Personal Pan Pizza is an act of violence''). This second definition is not specific enough, despite what some manifesto writers may believe, although it does allow the intriguing possibility of jailing the entire country's population.

Note the importance of both ``unhappy'' and ``capable of violence'' existing at once. People who are unhappy but are not capable of violence usually are not a problem; imagine a Patriots fan encased in a block of cement. Similarly, those who are capable of violence but are happy pose no immediate threat, but they should be watched carefully; consider Hillary Clinton.


If this were a sociology study or a scientific analysis, I could stop right here. Better yet, if this were a Special Campus Forum, I could stop after stating the title and allowing all conceivable factions to rant and ramble for 20 minutes each. However, this has been posed as an engineering analysis, and engineers have to propose some solutions, even if they won't work.

First, what can we do about making unhappy people more happy? Well, if I knew the answer to this, I wouldn't have to dispense venom in the guise of humor. Let's move on.

Our systematic approach to the problem has reduced to the goal of making unhappy people less capable of violence. This clear goal allows us to state several approaches to improving safety and security at MIT:

1. HIDE. This approach is often dismissed for its simplicity, but often the most simple solution is the best. Jimmy Hoffa has been hiding for some time now with great results, and just consider the number of enemies he had to worry about. In fact, there are probably people hiding somewhere around you right now; you wouldn't know them, because they're hiding, of course.

2. BECOME HUGE. Anyone would agree that a physically intimidating person is less likely to be accosted. To give a margin of safety, I recommend that men increase their weight to at least 400 pounds. I'm not just talking Ted-\-Kennedy-\-huge, either; you should include muscle and height gain to accommodate the weight, which would put you at about 9 feet tall. Since women are often viewed by attackers as easy prey, for them I recommend a target size of 600 pounds and 12 feet tall.

3. BECOME VERY FAST. It would be difficult to mug someone who can run 50 miles per hour, particularly if they weigh 600 pounds.

4. ARM YOURSELF. This is a poor substitute for becoming huge, but might be viewed as an interim solution. Knives and handguns come to mind first, but don't they really just encourage fighting? I know they did in our house. Impressive weapons such as cursed Samoan war clubs, dripping gore, are much more effective in stopping confrontations before they happen. Don't rule out explosives; they're much safer than they were in the volatile times of nitroglycerin. A jacket stuffed with C4 can provide you with the option of mutually assured destruction, a proven deterrent.

5. EAT YOUR VALUABLES. If your assailant is primarily interested in money, having your valuables concealed in your stomach might be a good idea. This approach may require some careful scheduling depending on what you're planning to do that night, but it can't be beat for outright hilarity. I mean, what are they going to do about it? On second thought, maybe this isn't such a good idea.

6. OFFER ALTERNATIVES TO YOUR ASSAILANT. You might consider traveling with people who are smaller, softer, slower, wealthier, and more annoying than you are. Carrying maps detailing the route from here to Harvard Square might help, too.

7. LOOK LIKE A PERPETRATOR. Criminals have a union, and this union prohibits assaulting other criminals if there is an innocent bystander available. Thus, having the appearance of a perpetrator instead of a perpetratee can be a wise choice, and you can improve your fashion status while avoiding harm. Hints can be gleaned from reading the assailant descriptions in newspaper reports, but we all know the word in urban perpetrator fashion for '93 is ``baggy''. This applies to shirts, jackets, pants, hats, shoes, and especially bags. If you're choosing new pants, for example, you should be able to put both of your legs into one leg of the pants. The extra space can be used for weapons, booty (of either kind), or hiding (see #1). If you're planning to become huge, you might want to just go ahead and purchase the clothes you'll need for your target size now.

Acting like a perpetrator will lend an air of authenticity to your disguise. Occasionally, slug people as they walk by you. Mug a few of them, too. Go ahead. It's fun.


This complex problem will not be resolved overnight. In fact, it's likely to get worse during the night. I hope that by logically organizing the problem and some possible solutions, we draw near to really coming to terms with this issue.

Now, go find a good place to hide.