Dating service creator accused of harassing students

News   /   April 16, 2003  / 


BY EMILY BEARG

“Hey! Let me put it this way. I’m a good judge of character. You seem fantastic. I’d like to meet you. Love that ‘Up late talking and snuggling on the sofa’ and ‘Singing to me.’ Sure, I’ll play guitar & sing for you. :) I know you’re busy and this whole dating thing feels like a burden. Maybe we can change all that. What have you got to lose? Being romanced by a tall, fun, handsome gentleman will be quite nice! :) Zing me a note and let’s do a ‘just coffee’. When? Or just email is fine if you’re shy. My profile is below, and two pics are attached. :) Ciao, bella! Jon”

In the months following the MIT-Harvard-Wellesley Valentine’s Match-Up, some law students’ inboxes continue to be flooded with unwanted and potentially harassing e-mails like the one above.

Around Valentine’s Day this year, Harvard Law School students received fliers in their Harkboxes encouraging them to sign up for the Match-Up, a service that promised to pair each participant with 20-30 compatible matches within the three university communities. Three thousand two hundred people participated by Valentine’s Day, and then another 600 signed up when a second round was offered for those who missed out the first time.

The survey included questions about the participant’s religion, smoking preference, idea of a romantic date, favorite movie, weekend activities and hobbies.

The website describes the event as a “free service run by students, in association with the MIT Young Alumni Club, the Harvard Med School Student Council and other communities” including “MIT grads, alumni, ugrads and others; Harvard grads, alumni, ugrads and others; Wellesley alumni and ugrads.”

However, Jon Monsarrat, a 34-year old MIT business graduate, apparently organized the event on his own, as none of the listed sponsors claim any involvement with the service or know of any other genuine participants.

Johannes Kratz, of the Harvard Medical School Council, said that when he was contacted by Monsarrat, he agreed to inform medical students about the Match-Up and said that it would be fine to be listed as a participant, but had no further contact with Monsarrat. “HMS Student Council had absolutely no part whatsoever in setting up, sponsoring, promoting, or hosting the match other than what I just described,” said Kratz.

Eric Sit, MIT Young Alumni Chair, also agreed to publicize the event to its members. “”After assuring us that all data would be kept securely and confidentially, we said sure,” Sit said. “We didn’t have anything to do with how it was run.”

Since Valentine’s Day, numerous HLS women have received e-mails from Monsarrat requesting that they start dating him. He did not just email the 20 or so people he had been matched with by the web service. In fact, according to 3L Nicole De Sario, he admitted in an email to one of her friends that he had sorted through all of the Match-Up profiles himself, and used the service to gain access to many women’s contact information.

De Sario’s friend wrote back two or three times saying she wasn’t interested, but Monsarrat continued to write her, including charts of his weight loss, promises to lose more in the future and persistent demands to meet with him. At one point he wrote, “You’ve made me wait too long; I’m getting impatient.”

De Sario realized the problem could be more widespread when she herself started receiving emails from Monsarrat, one of which is copied above. She e-mailed the site address that is listed on the Match-Up web page to complain about the emails, but received no response.

At De Sario’s request, the Women’s Law Association sent out an email alerting the Law School community of the incident, urging students to forward any correspondence to the Dean of Students and StopIT, an organ of the Information Systems organization at MIT that monitors misuses of the MIT computing system.

“A bunch of people came forward,” De Sario said. Students sent e-mails to the Dean of Students, who then made arrangements for a group of students to speak with the Harvard University Police.

“It hasn’t yet risen to a legal violation, De Sario added. “But it is clearly a moral and ethical violation, and my concern is that it could amount to a harassment claim.”

According to Massachusetts law, criminal harassment applies to: “Whoever willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress…. Such conduct or acts described in this paragraph shall include, but not be limited to, conduct or acts conducted by mail or by use of a telephonic or telecommunication device including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications or facsimile communications.”

Administrators and police are still unaware of just how many women have been contacted, or whether or not anyone has met with Monsarrat. However, the police will be sending him a cease and desist letter warning him of the potential legal implications of his actions.

“The police department is writing a letter to the guy and they sort of said that was the end of it unless someone was suffering some kind of serious harm,” said 3L Bill Dance, Law School Council President. “Which is why it would be useful to find out if someone was suffering more serious harm.”

“Everyone you talk to knows someone who was contacted,” Dance added.

“According to Enice Matera, Student Services Officer in the Dean of Students Office, there haven’t been cases of serious or widespread harassment over e-mail at the Law School before. “To my knowledge, I don’t remember anything like this happening before,” she said.

StopIT is continuing to monitor and receive e-mails forwarded by students who have corresponded with Monsarrat. According to Tim McGovern, a StopIT member, their goals in any such case “are to facilitate or mediate between parties to reach a mutually acceptable set of conditions,” which include “agreement on steps forward, no contact orders and so forth.”

Any student who has been bothered by Monsarrat can contact Amy Schlosberg at the Harvard University Police Department (amy-schlosberg@harvard.edu) and StopIT@MIT.edu with attachments of any e-mails received from or sent to Monsarrat.

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