Recent incidents show holes in dorm security

Amy Hamblin

Holding the door might have gone from nice to naughty after two trespassing incidents in Allison Hall in the past two weeks.

Some students are questioning the security system in the dorms. Northwestern officials said Wednesday that students need to be more careful about who they are letting into residence halls.

Last week an Allison resident saw an unidentified man in the third-floor women’s bathroom.

On April 8, a female Allison resident spotted a man in his mid-20s lingering in one of Allison’s hallways. Both men left before police arrived.

In November, University Police found two men trespassing on the third floor of Allison. Last May, an unidentified man opened a shower curtain on a female Allison resident.

In October, police arrested a man in Foster-Walker Complex for carrying a gun.

In addition to meeting with RAs and sending an e-mail reminding residents about basic safety, the university probably won’t be increasing security unless the problem escalates, said Virginia Koch, senior assistant director for University Residential Life.

Allison, Foster-Walker and all other residence halls with 88 or more residents have a student security monitor stationed at the hall’s main entrance from 8 p.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and from 8 p.m to 3 a.m., Friday and Saturday.

Student security monitors are supposed to check every student’s ID and sign in any visitors who don’t live in the dorm.

At least one Allison resident said this system is flawed.

“It’s typically some girl working on her laptop,” said Communication sophomore Lamis Eli, who lives on dorm’s third floor. “What’s she going to do?”

The university has talked about implementing a card-swipe system or hiring professional security monitors, Koch said, adding that NU does not face the same security issues as many urban universities.

“You have to decide what’s a cost-effective way of ensuring security,” Koch said. “The student taking responsibility for their own dorm is the most important thing.”

DePaul University stepped up its security several years ago by adding a security monitor desk staffed 24 hours a day, said John Sebby, facilities resident director for DePaul. The number of intruder incidents has dropped since then, he said. There were none reported in the last year.

DePaul students work as security monitors during the daytime but are replaced by professionals at night, he added.

To enter any of DePaul’s dorms, students must swipe their IDs, and guests must present IDs and sign in. They also must swipe cards to enter each floor, he said.

In Hyde Park, the University of Chicago takes similar security measures to DePaul. Students must show IDs to a professional security monitor, who will buzz them in.

Even with 24-hour security monitors, unauthorized people do still manage to slip into the dorm, said Doretha Moore, a secretary for the University House System at the University of Chicago.

“They figure out how to flow with the crowd,” she said. “If people want to maneuver their way in, they can sometimes.”

At NU students must use their electronically activated Marlok keys to enter the lobbies and different floors of residence halls.

But Koch said if students don’t act more carefully, no amount of security will ever be enough.

Students should not leave doors open and should make sure they only let in dorm residents, she said.

“There’s a certain level of neighborhood watch that we expect from everyone living in the dorm,” she said.

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]