In the latest of several changes to NMU’s security policies, Northern residence halls are now equipped with a security system that requires an NMU ID to gain entry, rather than an actual key.
Until the system is fully implemented, students will still be able to use the keys issued to them to open the outer doors to their residence halls.
The access system works much like a hotel room key. Students wishing to enter their residence hall can swipe their ID card through the card reading machine, which then accesses that student’s information, verifies that the card belongs to someone who lives in that dorm, and then unlocks the door.
In keeping with the current policy, students using their ID card will have the ability to gain access only to the residence hall in which they live. Also, students will still need a classic key to enter their individual dorm rooms.
Carl Holm, director of Housing and Residence Life, said the university began examining its security procedures after the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, which took place in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Since the national outcry over the slow, unorganized reaction of campus police during Seung-Hui Cho’s deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, Northern’s administration and police services have made many policy changes to ensure the safety of their students. Students now receive e-mails and text messages in the event of an emergency, and the university also recently tested an emergency response system in which the IBM computers provided to students are momentarily incapacitated in order to alert students of an immediate danger.
“Universities across the country were taking a look at those tragedies and thinking through, ‘What if?'” Holm said. “We wanted to take a quick look at what we were doing.”
The challenge for NMU, Holm said, was that if an emergency similar to a school shooting were to occur on campus, it would take some time to secure each of the four to five entry doors to each residence hall. With the new system, which has
been installed in all the dorms as well as the Woodland apartments, Public Safety will be able to lock down all of those buildings at once.
“In some ways, I think there are positives and negatives either way,” Holm said. “To me, the key advantage to the system is that we are able to lock the doors all at the same time.”
The system was not installed in the on-campus apartments, as they currently aren’t locked at night anyway. Holm added that many people living in the old on-campus apartments have families, and installing an ID system would cause problems with children unable to enter their homes.
“We used to talk about what if we locked the doors to the apartment buildings themselves, but there are people with children. . We don’t want kids to be locked out of their homes,” he said.
The new system cost a total of $485,000. Half the funding came from Housing and Residence Life, which is given funds through room and board fees, while the other half was provided by NMU’s loss control fund.
Holm added that the system is being installed only on the outer doors of the residence halls at this time because it would not be cost effective to install it on each individual room, as well.
CBORD, the company which manufactured the new access system, previously provided NMU with its housing management system, as well as the new cashless system used in Dining Services.
Art Gischia, associate vice president for auxiliary services in purchasing, said deciding on using a company which Northern is already associated with will help keep maintenance costs low.
“There is some cost saving because you have the same person behind the scenes. Maintenance costs less,” he said.
Brandon Sager, owners’ representative and sustainability coordinator for NMU, has been working closely with CBORD since last July to install the program.
As of now, all the equipment has been installed, Holm said, adding that Sager has been working to eliminate any problems with the system before fully implementing it.
“We’re working out a few bugs in some of the . buildings,” he said. “I think (the new system is) going to be very good and improve our security on those buildings.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 17, the new system was put through its first test. All outer residence hall doors were locked electronically, and anyone wishing to enter a dorm could gain access by using an NMU ID card. The doors were locked at 10 p.m., and unlocked at 7 a.m. the following day.
Sager said the system test went smoothly.
“It went really well,” he said. “Everything locked and unlocked as it was supposed to, and that’s a good thing.”
Since the new system is wholly dependent on NMU ID cards, Holm stressed the need for students to report a missing ID card as soon as possible.
“It really behooves students, should they misplace or lose a card, to request a (new) card right away,” Holm said. “We’ll issue a temporary, that way we’ll deactivate their (old) card right away, so it’s no longer functional. The good thing is it may get someone into the building, but it still won’t get them into their room.
“(Students should) lock their room doors when they’re sleeping and when they’re away, just as a routine matter of security,” he added