Plan Alarms Dorm Leaders

Elise Foley

By Elise FoleyThe Daily Northwestern

About 20 students met Tuesday night to discuss their disappointment with the university’s decision to limit access to residence halls and residential colleges starting in Spring Quarter.

Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis announced last week the plan to place alarms on all but the main doors at university dorms and residential colleges.

Students at Tuesday night’s meeting compiled a list of ideas that included having more input in future decisions about campus safety and allowing exemptions for certain dorm doors.

The plan, which was proposed in November in response to nine dorm intrusions last year, met significant resistance from students. About 90 percent of voters in an ASG poll opposed the plan.

The meeting – hosted by the Associated Student Government, the Residence Hall Association and the Residential College Board – was designed to develop new ideas, said ASG President Jay Schumacher.

“I hate leaving meetings with no outcome,” the Communication senior said. “I don’t want this to be just complaining.”

Students at the meeting broke into groups to discuss the issues and suggest solutions.

All attendees agreed that closing all side doors 24 hours a day is not the ideal solution to the security problem. The plan also includes replacing student security monitors with professional security guards and placing security cameras at some dorm entrances.

Banis said at a previous ASG meeting that he recognized students’ unhappiness with the university’s decision, but that administrators had no choice in order to safeguard student security.

RCB president Sarah Whitney, a Weinberg junior, said she wished the administration had paid attention to the students’ suggestions and comments.

“I feel like we should be asking why we should help when we weren’t asked our opinion in the first place,” she said. “Clearly we want safety, but what can we do to be included in the process?”

Whitney said students should encourage administrators to follow the recommendations of a Safety Education Committee, a student organization formed in response to the initial discussion of the security changes.

Students at the meeting offered suggestions such as asking for a written statement from Banis promising to solicit more student input and consideration of the Safety Education Committee’s recommendations.

Students also said they wanted to see a copy of the security assessment completed by Aegis Protection Group, a private consulting firm hired to assess NU’s campus security.

Schumacher said it was important to remember that the university could be liable in the case of an emergency for not following the firm’s recommendations, which included limiting access to university housing.

“As much as I’m upset about it, there is some logic to why it happened,” Schumacher said.

Bobb Hall President Phillip Reich said he was concerned that the university’s new policies might not be effective in stopping “tailgaters” – people who follow residents into their dorms.

“We don’t know whether this is going to work,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “Locking the side doors just ensures that people will ‘tailgate’ through the front.”

Attendees also agreed that they should use the university’s new interest in safety to resolve other safety issues, such as long waits for the university’s SafeRide service.

“I think there have been more people uncomfortable walking around at night than uncomfortable in their dorms,” said Music and Weinberg sophomore Danielle Johnson, the president of Shepard Residential College.

The meeting ended with the students writing a list of objectives and how they planned to achieve them.

“This served as an initial jumping-off point,” Schumacher said. “We have to stop complaining, and start creating innovative solutions. We’re hoping to engage in dialogue with the administration.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]