Security Plans Put NU Policies Closer To Some Urban Schools’s

Nomaan Merchant

By Nomaan MerchantThe Daily Northwestern

Many Northwestern students have taken issue with the administration’s plan to activate alarms on all secondary doors at residence halls and residential colleges throughout the day.

But officials at peer institutions and security experts say an aggressive effort to control access into and within dorms is vital to maintaining security.

“If you don’t secure those doors, you leave a lot more opportunities for unauthorized people to enter,” said Dan Keller, chief executive officer of Aegis Protection Group.

Aegis conducted a four-month-long study of NU residence halls after several intrusions occurred last spring. The firm interviewed administrators and students to determine what measures to take to prevent intruders, he said.

Keller said the “fairly small residence halls … of significant age” made maintaining security especially difficult. NU’s 34 residence halls serve about 4,150 students.

“It’s much more difficult to control smaller, diversified residence halls than larger, monolithic ones,” Keller said.

Aegis’ final report will not be released to the public because the report is private information for the university’s use, said William Banis, NU’s vice president for student affairs.

One of the report’s recommendations was activating alarms on the side doors, Banis said.

“There are some things we can do now, and those things that can be done, we’ve decided to do it,” Banis said.

In addition to leaving the alarms on doors, security guards will staff at least 11 larger residence halls starting next fall, Banis said.

The remainder of NU’s dorms will have closed-circuit cameras installed in their lobbies, and the university also will increase lighting and cut back shrubbery.

Former student security monitors will be offered jobs in the student affairs office, Banis said. He declined to estimate the cost of the changes.

Other universities use different measures to secure residence halls based upon the size and number of dorms, as well as the school’s location.

The University of Pennsylvania, located in west Philadelphia, hires a security firm to staff its 11 halls, said Dana Matkevich, a spokesperson for the university’s housing department.

A security guard is present during the day, and two guards protect each dorm at night, he said.

Penn also uses closed-circuit cameras in dorm lobbies, and students can enter each building only through one door.

But other schools, including Stanford University, do not use such extensive measures.

With 78 residence halls for 6,150 undergraduates, Stanford has twice as many dorms as NU.

Housing spokesman Bill Georges said the Stanford’s housing system is “very decentralized.”

Some of the buildings have side entrances that are accessible at all hours, he said, and although campus police are on duty throughout the night, individual buildings don’t have security monitors.

Stanford has not seen reoccurring security problems, Georges said, in part because of its suburban location near San Francisco.

Other universities limit access into their residence halls to one entrance.

Nine of the 11 dorms at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities have only one available door, said university spokeswoman Susan Stubblefield.

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the side doors of residence halls are closed at night, and students can only enter the floor they live on with their IDs, said university spokeswoman Kirsten Ruby.

Jim Pastor, the president of the consulting firm SecureLaw, said limiting entrances makes it harder for intruders to enter dorms unnoticed.

“From a security principles standpoint … it’s always a good approach,” said Pastor, a former professor at NU’s Center for Public Safety. “Crime does happen during the day.”

NU’s Evanston campus is not urban, but extra measures to protect dorms from intruders are necessary because most people arrested for crimes on campus are residents of Evanston and Chicago, not NU students, Banis said.

NU is hiring two police officers to target crime in dorms and a public safety officer, he said.

All of these changes should be completed by the start of the 2007-08 school year, he said.

“Northwestern is a relatively safe campus,” Keller said. “If there is one issue (at NU), it’s that there are a lot of smaller, older residence halls.”

Reach Nomaan Merchant at [email protected]rn.edu.