Locked out

By the

March 29, 2001

People who have ever entered a residence hall after telling a student guard that they left their IDs at home, by waiting for someone else to come out of a building, or by simply swiftly kicking a door, know that Georgetown’s security measures are far from fool-proof. However, university officials’ current plan to lock all residence halls 24 hours a day and permit only students who live in a particular building to enter that building is misguided and based on a distorted view of the security problem.

The fallacy of the current plan is that it assumes that overall safety will be improved by making access to residence halls more exclusive. Assuming that current glitches in the card reader system can be worked out to amend the present situation in which some students’ cards work in all buildings, some work in some buildings and some work in no buildings, the resulting restricted access will only inconvenience students and make a sense of campus community more difficult, while failing to effect an increase in safety.

All students should be permitted access to all buildings, regardless of which residence hall they reside in. Students often need to enter various dorms to post fliers for clubs and activities. In addition, all Georgetown students should have the freedom to use whichever computer lab or other facility they want to, regardless of its location. If someone needs to use a computer in LXR because the Harbin computer lab is crowded, University officials should not deny them entry into the building.

The proposed plan also hinders a sense of campus community. Although one could argue that students will still be able to use campus phones to contact friends they wish to visit, this introduces a superfluous step into what should be an effortless endeavor. This system mandates that people answer all their calls and also prevents a student from wandering around a floor on which they know several people, to see if any of them are available. On a more holistic level, setting up a system in which students know that the only dorm they have free access to is their own isolates students by restricting movement, if not fully on a physical level, then at least on an intellectual level.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, by restricting students’ access to student residence halls, University officials are indicting Georgetown students as the source of Georgetown safety concerns. A Harbin resident is no more of a security threat to a New South resident than other New South residents are. If threats to safety are coming from within the Georgetown community itself, then the University has a problem that cannot be combatted by card readers. If the creators of the proposed policy believe that students set out to target other students if those victims are not too close to home, then either the admissions policy needs to be altered or the University needs to encourage ethical behavior more strongly. If, on the other hand, the card reader selectivity is only a meaningless measure intended to provide peace of mind to students and their parents, University officials need to look long and hard at the ramifications of the proposal to determine if phony protection from harm is worth actual harm to the quality of student life.

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