DPS to ban laptop, tablet use while student guarding

April 25, 2013

A slew of residence hall burglaries over the past year has prompted the Department of Public Safety to evaluate some of its security policies. DPS reconsidered the way its student guards should conduct themselves and, starting this summer term, will prohibit student guards from using laptops and tablets while they are on duty.

DPS Chief Jay Gruber explained the reasoning for the change. “We’re seeing that the student guards are paying more attention to the laptops and tablets than they are to their surroundings,” Gruber said. “They’re not being proactive. They’re not doing what we, in a lot of cases, expect them to do.”

Ideally, student guards are trained to ask for GOCards from every visitor, compare the photo to the person presenting it, and make sure that it scans properly, according to Gruber. In the event that someone makes it into a building without presenting a GOCard or form of identification, it is the student guard’s duty to report it to DPS immediately.

“We want [the guards] to be able to observe their surroundings and see if anything is unusual, see people who look out of place,” Gruber said. “Then they can make a decision if they should contact public safety.”

However, Gruber has found that many student guards are not living up to these requirements, which he alleges caused an increase in on-campus burglaries this year. While Gruber remains convinced that the change will improve building security, the student guards themselves question DPS’s decision to prohibit laptops.

“They say that next year the guards are allowed to be on their smartphones, but I personally think that being on a smartphone is more distracting than being on a computer,” student guard Cynthia D’Andria (MSB ’13) said. “Yes, you’re looking at your computer, but at least you still have a view, whereas on your smartphone you’re actually looking down. I’ve found that I’m more distracted when I’m on my phone than when I’m on my computer.”

Other guards believe that, without laptops, the student guard program will not be as attractive as it is to students now. “When I look at the whole approach to increasing security in the dorms, I believe that taking away the laptops will only make students not want to work these jobs,” said student guard Justin Pinn (COL ’13).

“The whole purpose of student guard jobs is to provide an atmosphere where underprivileged students achieve and make money at the same time,” Pinn said. “They’ve already instituted the policy of having card readers, where guards actually look at the cards, and I think that’s effective … but I believe the policies they’re enacting are counterproductive to what they’re actually trying to achieve.”

Gruber said that if smartphones prove to be equally distracting, guards potentially will not be allowed to use them either.

Not only do student guards doubt the effectiveness of the new policy, but they also say it asks too much of the student guards. “All my homework’s on my computer,” D’Andria said. “I’ve spoken to other people who were really angry about the fact that they couldn’t use their computers.” D’Andria said that if she were not graduating this year, she would likely quit her position as student guard.

Nonetheless, Gruber doubts that DPS will have a lack of guards as a result of this policy change and pointed out that it is unusual for workers in general to have complete freedom to use computers when on the job.

“Just go around campus and look at student jobs,” Gruber said. “Very few of them involve sitting somewhere and enjoying the time watching a laptop or typing into it.”

Regardless of potential complaints from student guards, DPS stands by its decision. “The whole purpose of this change is to make our buildings safer and make our students safer,” Gruber said. “It was not an arbitrary decision. It was a well thought-out decision in favor of the safety of our students and our buildings.”


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