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The North Wind

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The North Wind

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Hey. My name is Caden and I'm from the Chicagoland area.  I'm currently going into my 3rd year at NMU.  I'm a multimedia production major with a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. For as...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Swiping for safety

Students have been swiping their university ID cards for food on campus for years; now they are swiping for access into their dorms.

At the beginning of the fall semester, the residence halls made a security change, locking all doors 24 hours a day. Prior to this, the residence halls were locked on weekdays from 10 pm. to 7 a.m. On weekends, the lockdown went from 10 p.m. to noon.

The decision to make this change was first discussed during internal Housing and Residence Life Department meetings in February 2015. Topics such as dorm safety are frequently talked about at these meetings, according to Gary Bice, director of Housing and Residence Life.

“We are always taking a look at safety and security on campus,” Bice said.

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Northern’s residence halls went live with card access equipment in 2010. Bice said the capability to make this change has always been available—even in the days of old fashioned keys—and the process was a quick computer change.

The decision surrounding the change involved Housing and Residence Life as well as Public Safety. Additionally, resident advisors and resident directors were included, Bice said. The decision was also discussed at the Presidents Round Table, which involves hall government presidents from each residence hall.

“We always include students in those kinds of decisions,” Bice said.

The change was not made because of any specific incident on campus and students rate safety very highly on satisfaction surveys, Bice said.

“Students are not scared, but it was just the right thing to do,” Bice said. “Let’s do everything we can to make the buildings as secure as possible, and that was a no brainer.”

Students already carry their Wildcat Express Cards for meals, so the change to locking the residence halls should not interrupt the daily lives of students, Bice said.

Students must now carry their IDs with them at all times. When carrying in groceries or making quick trips outside, the locked doors can be an inconvenience, said Matt Johnson, a sophomore social studies secondary education major.

“It’s kind of a hassle to carry the ID,” Johnson said. “I miss being able to leave without it.”

Other universities such as Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University already use a 24 hour locked access system.

Although no major security threats have occurred on Northern’s campus, events like the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where 32 students and faculty were killed, and the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City affect the way campus safety is approached, Bice said.

“Negative experiences on [other] campuses guide us to make better decisions in the future,” Bice said. “Virginia Tech was a game changer for all of us.”

Bice said a surprising number of students do not lock their room doors and are very comfortable leaving their doors open, despite the Housing and Residence Life office educating students on the importance of locking their doors.

Complaints of card readers not working have already been reported to the Housing and Residence Life office. According to Bice, the problem in these situations is either an old card reader or an old ID. Because the readers are being used 24 hours a day, staff members have to pay closer attention to battery levels.

As long as students alert Housing and Residence Life, problems can get taken care of, Bice said.

All entry doors into dorms, except the doors to the lobby, are locked 24/7. The lobbies are open when the desk is staffed, Bice said.

In 2014, five cases of burglary were reported on campus, according to the crime statistics published by Public Safety in accordance with the Clery Act.

NMU’s Public Safety crime prevention specialist, Lt. Don Peterman, said there are few thefts in the dorms, but the change to locked residence halls does increase student safety and security.

“[Locking the doors] does decrease the flow of people who don’t belong in the halls, and decreases the opportunity for theft,” Peterman said. “It is 100 percent a step in the right direction.”

Marquette has a very low crime rate and campus is rarely affected by crime, student Matt Johnson said.

“I do not see a difference in safety,” Johnson said. “Our campus crime rates are usually fairly insignificant.”

Because students who forget their ID or do not live in the dorms can walk in behind other students with the proper access, locking the doors is not as secure as it could be, Doug Bruno, a sophomore history major, said.

“It is kind of a flawed system,” Bruno said.

Students are able to “tailgate” behind other students to gain entrance to the residence halls, Bice said. The solution to this problem is educating students on the importance of not letting in people they do not know.

“In the end, it is about the safety of the students,” Bice said.

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