New security changes measure up

josh.perttunen and josh.perttunen

When word got out that the master key to the residence halls was missing, NMU was quick to reevaluate and make changes to current resident hall security policies.
A system was put in place where students were required to show their identification cards to gain entrance to the residence halls anytime between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. They were also strongly encouraged to follow the often-disregarded policy of not allowing anyone in the building or propping side doors open. According to public safety, more security cameras were added to look in on the lobbies of each building.
These are policies that should continue even now that the master key has been found.
Students having to present their ID’s at the main doors before they can gain entry to the building may seem like an inconvenience, but in the grand scheme of things, it is not a big deal. We live in a culture where passwords are required before we can do things such as check our e-mail or purchase things on a debit card.
Fingers fly on a keyboard to type eBay passwords without giving it a second thought. It does not require any more energy to fish in one’s pocket for an identification card.
Similar policies are in place at campuses across the country. Students at Michigan Tech are issued ID/access cards instead of keys, which they have to swipe to gain access to their hall between midnight and 7 a.m. They are similarly encouraged not to prop open doors or let someone in behind them, according to MTU’s housing and residential life Web site.
With the April 16 campus shootings at Virginia Tech demonstrating the kind of devastation that can happen within the space of a few hours, having a solid security plan is increasingly important in this day in age.
Keeping the side doors closed and locked just makes sense. If the residence halls were a single abode and only one person or a group of people were affected by a singular lapse in judgment, then it would be different.
But since gaining access to a side door pretty much gains access to every room within the complex, (with the open-door culture of the residence halls), students should be respectful of each other by not allowing easy access.
If a student does allow an outsider access to their residence hall, visitor or otherwise, the procedure should be as simple as having to sign their guests in and/or taking responsibility for their actions while they are in the residence halls during after-hours.
Although the rules are generally discussed at the beginning of each year by RA’s, many students are unclear about whether overnight guests are allowed outside of visiting hours. This lack of clarity naturally leads to instances where non-residents are “smuggled in.”
If NMU residence halls were clearer about these policies and/or instituted a policy change along the lines of signing people in, it would give security a more accurate overview of who is really in their building. This would also provide a head count of all the people in the building should there be a fire drill or an actual fire.
An increase in security cameras is something that should be handled with care. Too many security cameras in a place of residence can make students feel like Big Brother is watching. Although the cameras don’t go directly in the rooms, a lot of residence hall life plays itself out in the lobbies. Privacy and security always need to be in a delicate balance with one another.
One of the most important questions that NMU will face as they move forward from this debacle is: Is it financially savvy to continue these security services after the construction company stops footing the bill for them? Can we put a person at every residence hall desk or have a person readily available who only lets in students that are capable of producing an identification card?
Students might feel a lot more secure if we could.