SA questions ORL door lock policies

by Kaitlin Bell | 11/13/02 6:00am

For over 45 minutes, members of the Student Assembly barraged Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman with questions and criticisms of the dormitory door lock system at last night's Assembly meeting.

The discussion focused on leave-term students being denied access to dormitories, with several Assembly members openly attacking Redman's justifications for not permitting access to all students, enrolled or not.

Activating the cards of students on leave could pose a security risk, Redman said, since students on leave have little motivation to report lost or stolen cards. Since cards are readily identifiable as belonging to Dartmouth, it would be easy for someone with dishonorable intentions to gain access to the dorms, he argued.

Redman suggested that in the past, unlocked dorms have compromised students' security and privacy, citing a series of incidents two years ago in which unidentified men peeked in on female students taking showers.

But some Assembly members were not shy about criticizing what they perceived as flaws in Redman's logic.

"Do you really think it's feasible for some old guy to pick up a Dartmouth card somebody lost on a bus in New York City and come all the way up to Hanover to peek at girls in the showers?" one member wanted to know. "There are plenty of places to do that in New York, so why would they come up to Dartmouth?"

"Realistically, no, we don't think that is going to happen," Redman answered. "But since we have a system that's capable of shutting off those cards when they're not in use, why not use it?"

Nevertheless, Redman stressed that he recognizes that leave-term students staying in Hanover can be inconvenienced by their lack of dorm access. He asked Assembly members whether or not they would support having a special application process that would allow such students to have their cards activated.

The application would require students to explain their reasons for remaining in Hanover and notify ORL about where they are staying.

In an informal vote, the Assembly overwhelmingly supported instituting such a process, but several were critical of ORL keeping tabs on student whereabouts during off-terms.

Redman said that basic information about where students are staying is necessary so that if they lose their cards, ORL can contact them.

Many members said they believed there would be better ways to allow leave-term students dorm access.

Jared Alessandroni '03 said that ORL has the capability to assign each student a personal PIN number which they could punch into the key pads that already exist outside each door.

"Why don't you consider using all the capabilities that you already spent so much money for on these cards?" he asked.

"We're trying to keep it as simple and streamlined as possible," Redman explained. "Yes, the computer can do this, but it becomes an issue of not creating more staff time."

Other Assembly members expressed concern about ORL's ability to track every time students enter each dorm.

"The only issue I have with that is that it can be used as a surveillance system instead of a security system," Steve Koutsavlis '05 said.

But Redman said ORL staff members have better things to do with their time than locate student's every coming and going in a vast computer database.

The information would only be used to help Safety and Security investigate campus crimes, Redman said.

Despite the myriad concerns expressed, Redman defended the concept of a door locking system as being a compromise between the security needs of different students.

"Every year we have students who live on the first floors who want bars on their windows," he said. "We've already taken a rather large step in creating universal access for students to get access to every dormitory," Redman said, noting that most schools only allow students access to the one dorm they live in.

The Assembly also unanimously passed a resolution calling for several measures to increase Dartmouth's efforts toward environmental friendliness.

The resolution, spearheaded by Student Organizations Chair Sally Newman '05, endorsed the use of 100 percent recycled paper on campus and replacing beer cans with kegs at parties.

It also called for a "sustainability coordinator" on the College's staff. Such a position has already been created in the provost's office, Newman said, but given the budget shortfalls, there is no College money available to pay such a person. Jared Foote '01, who helped with research for the resolution, is currently searching for outside grants to fund the position, Newman added.