College door locks installation underway

by Charles Gardner | 11/6/01 6:00am

Work on Dartmouth's new security system -- which will provide proximity card access to all residential halls on campus -- is well underway and remains on target for a January 1st completion date, according to Director of Residential Operations Woody Eckels.

Activation of the system will occur no sooner than Spring term, however, as current Dartmouth ID cards are incompatible with the new hardware and will need to be gradually replaced over the winter.

Although installation began in September, the noisiest and most visible phase of the construction process -- the drilling of small holes through building facades -- is only now concluding. Wiring and other installation work remains to be done in many locations.

"I think everything is going well," Eckels said. "The noisy work has been completed in a lot of places, and [the work crews] have instructions not to do any work before 9 in the morning or after 5 p.m."

He explained that the installation of the system will involve not only the small "proximity readers" but will also include outdoor speaker telephones mounted at the main entrance to each dormitory.

These phones, which are for general campus use, will be activated sooner than the locking mechanism, and are intended to provide vendors, outside visitors and others with an easy means of contacting those inside the building.

The "proximity reader" panels, which will be capable of detecting a card placed within several inches of the detector, will be small and unobtrusive, according to Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman.

"They're only about five or six inches high," Redman said, downplaying the negative effect the system would have on the appearance of building facades. "From a distance you probably wouldn't notice anything."

Though installation is proceeding according to schedule, the time required to issue new identification cards to all Dartmouth students, faculty and staff will push the activation date forward into the Spring term.

"The biggest impact of the timing has to do with the card-making process," Redman said, explaining that many students -- especially upperclassmen and others who possess the older, non-computerized ID cards -- will need to have their pictures retaken in addition to simply having a new card issued.

Newer students have their photographs stored by the card office, but still will receive a new card compatible with the locking system.

"The target is to get the picture-taking done in the winter term," Redman said. "We will transition and turn the system on Spring term."

The locking of residential halls only marks one part of a wider project, according to Eckels. "Residential buildings are phase one," he said. "Future phases will involve the professional schools, including Tuck and Thayer, as well as other buildings. The idea is that Dartmouth will have one system that works for everybody." Work on additional phases is unlikely to begin before Summer term, however.

Costs for the residential phase of the project are estimated at around $500,000, according to Redman, though they will amount to over $1.3 million by the time all phases are completed.

Redman thought that the new system was unlikely to cause any great change in the tenor of campus life.

"I don't think it will affect the atmosphere on campus in the least. In reality nothing is changing except that you'll have to use your Dartmouth card to enter residential buildings," he said.

"For those who have felt unsafe, it satisfies their needs ... I would hope that everybody gives [the system] an opportunity and a chance. I think that people will find it a neat new technology, and not an earth-shaking change."