A Look at Residential Life’s New 24-Hour Lock Policy
Next fall, campus residence halls will be permanently locked under a key card access system – something the administration began discussing as early as 1998. But the tragic deaths of 33 students and faculty at Virginia Tech last April prompted the administration to implement 24/7 locking a year early.
“It was really about being able to justify, in light of Virginia Tech, leaving the residence halls open this year, knowing that in 2008 we’re committed to having them locked 24 hours a day,” said Bonnie Prunty, Director of Residential Life. “In 2008 we’re saying that we think it’s important to provide this extra level of security. Shouldn’t we start providing an extra level of security today?”
Now, six months after the shock of Virginia Tech, students are questioning whether the new lock policy is a simple solution to a complex problem.
“I think it’s largely a political and showy move,” said sophomore Cole Lechleiter. “I don’t think that this is a policy that really reflects the proper attitudes and actions that we should have towards preventing something like what happened at Virginia Tech.”
When Seung-Hui Cho attacked his fellow students and Virginia Tech faculty, 30 of his victims were murdered in an academic building while class was in session.
“So if they’re doing this in response to Virginia Tech, it would make more sense to lock the academic buildings, not the residence halls,” said sophomore Callie Tresser.
According to Bob Holt, Director of Public Safety, deciding whether to lock the academic buildings with the key card system is something the administration needs to work out. But looking back at Virginia Tech, it’s doubtful that locked academic buildings would have made the students safer.
“Keep in mind, Mr. Cho was a student, so he would have had a card that would let him in,” said Holt.
Thus, locking Ithaca College’s academic buildings would still leave more than 6,000 individuals able to enter as they pleased. It seems that even with a key card system, if an Ithaca College student wants to harm other students or faculty, it will be hard to keep them from doing so.
To prepare for an emergency situation, the college is in the process of installing a campus-wide emergency notification system. The system will allow Ithaca’s Core Emergency Response Team to communicate with students via their IC e-mail accounts and cell phone text messaging.
The idea is that when a threat – perhaps a lethal threat – is being posed to the student body, students in their rooms will receive an email outlining the danger and instructing them on what they should do next.
But what about the student who isn’t in his or her room, on the computer?
“A text message can only be so long,” says Prunty. “You can’t put all these instructions in it.”
Imagine receiving an emergency alert while walking in the Terrace quad. You live in Landon. The text doesn’t say what the threat is, or where or who it’s coming from. There are twelve buildings around you, and all could mean safety…but all are locked.
“If there is a shooting out in the open – which is the type of heinous crime we’re most afraid of – I think that brings up an interesting point that you might not be able to run into the nearest residence hall,” said Lechleiter.
The issue raises further questions about what students who are indoors should do when students attempting to find safety show up at their residence hall.
“I would definitely feel nervous about letting certain people in,” said freshman Crissy Warrington. “But I would still do so because odds are the one person at your door isn’t a threat.”
Not everyone is so optimistic.
“Who am I to judge who looks suspicious and who does not look suspicious?” asked Lechleiter. “It’s a difficult position.
Holt, who is a member of the Core Emergency Response Team, agrees.
“That takes us back to Mr. Cho,” he said. “He was part of the community. Are you going to leave him outside? How do you know that he was the one who caused it all? You don’t, you’d let him in. Is that what you want to do? I don’t know. That has to be worked out.”
by William Mathewson