Unlocking security in dorms is not as simple as turning a key and locking exterior doors.
After a string of thefts, vandalism incidents and assaults, all main doors in residence halls will require swipe access. Main doors refers to the second set of doors in new halls and exterior entrances on older residences halls that do not have the 24/7 lock system. The Department of Residential Life is implementing this policy immediately. Previously, exterior doors on all residence halls locked at 11 p.m.
Though we applaud ResLife’s efforts and find the new policy a step in the right direction, more preventative action needs to be taken to ensure the safety of those living in residence halls. Do not get us wrong, there are tons of benefits to locking all the main doors (like reducing the number of solicitors in the buildings), but there are still many ways an intruder could enter the building. Side doors function similarly to those in the lobby in that all an intruder has to do is wait until a resident shows up to swipe his or her card (granted someone waiting outside is a bit more suspicious). Yes, many buildings are set to be redesigned to mirror the likes of Schurz, but crime in Columbia and on campus will not stop while we wait for renovations to occur.
Locking the main doors may be enough to deter those looking to cause trouble, locking doors does not change the actions of residents. Whether it is forgetting to turn the key or slipping a magnet onto the door frame, there are too many instances of unlocked doors. Many students at MU come from small towns where everyone knows everyone. Behaviors assuming that home is safe carry through to college and later on to off-campus living. This can be detrimental when the first set of protection (locked doors in the lobby) fails. Anyone who has lived in a residence hall knows that it is easy to enter most residence halls whether an exterior door is locked or not. When both barriers are breached, students are left vulnerable to crime.
Residence hall security measures at other universities range from guest check-ins to required ID swipes to take the elevator. We encourage ResLife to borrow the policies of other universities. If they can do it, we can too.
But at what point do safety measures cross the line? Implementation of front desk check-ins and approval forms for guests are a bit extreme, but more security cameras and swipe-access doors could amp up security without hindering students. In community living, security trumps privacy, especially when student safety is involved. No solution will be perfect, but the act of working toward one is progress in itself.
Part of this solution-in-progress is changing the way students view safety. MU emphasizes that campus is secure, but this creates an unrealistic perception of safety. Columbia used to be a small midwestern town. With this comes the perception that crime is low, but as business booms and the city sprawls, the Columbia crime rate proves this untrue. Even the societal norm of holding doors open for those behind you can be the favor that ends in theft or worse.
We need a campus culture change. Students do not need to be afraid, but they must be aware. Whether it be knowing the faces of those who live on your floor or staying vigilant while walking at night, awareness is key, and Summer Welcome is essential to its implementation. Freshmen, and those new on campus, do pay attention to what is emphasized during orientation. If awareness of surroundings and safety in residence halls is heavily discussed, students will be more likely to deem these actions important.
At the same time, the responsibility of student safety is not solely the responsibility of the university. Students need to step-up. More, stronger security measures will only make it seem prison-like. ResLife has the resources and the authority to educate, but safety is ultimately up the actions of those living in residence halls. It is fairly simple: Lock your doors and do not open doors for strangers. It is common sense, really, but the midwestern spirit of courtesy and kindness makes it seem harsh and rude.
To those living on campus, know your community and be aware of those on your floor. Trust your floormates but be vigilant. Talk with your roommate about locking your door and inviting guests over. It is a double edged sword. This is a homey environment, but it is not your home. But with effort from both sides, on-campus abodes can be safe and secure.