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Locked doors: the death of community?

| Thursday, January 26, 2017

Among the list of things that Notre Dame values most, four are Catholic values, the endowment, the Honor Code and community. This last one has recently come under attack by changes made on campus. This might sound appalling, but it is true — or it at least has the potential to expand out and destroy the dorm culture that we so avidly enjoy.

I am talking about renovations that were recently completed on Howard Hall. It is true that Howard was in desperate need of an update. Walking through the halls sometimes could feel as if you were wandering through a haunted house, even during December, the most cheerful time of the year at Notre Dame. Overall, the renovations were a success. Howard finally feels like a place to walk around barefoot; it feels like home, the way Notre Dame should feel.

But there was one issue that I noticed immediately: the doors have been changed, or more specifically, the lock mechanisms on the doors. We have all been to a hotel before — you are required your keycard around to get into your specific room. I have no qualms with this as when I am visiting a hotel, I am more worried about security than it feeling like a home. And this is what Notre Dame has done to Howard Hall, required a special keycard, different from your student ID, that you must have with you at all times because the door locks automatically regardless of if you want it to or not.

Many people may say this is not an issue. I know the dorm culture for many female dorms is different than my native, small male dorm of Sorin, and that a much larger percentage of residents may have locked their doors anyway. And although my beloved Sorin still has traditional key locks, it is only a matter of time until Notre Dame attempts to impose security over community for all of its residence halls. People will make due by perhaps putting tape over the door latch to prevent it from locking, if not for any reason than to avoid getting locked out when they shower. This is likely true, but don’t let that distract from the fact that it is an attack at the intradorm community that Notre Dame students take such pride in.

You may think that I am being too harsh on a harmless security feature, but hear me out. Our current dorm system is an opt-out system. In order to remove your room from the available unlocked rooms in the dorm, you must make the decision to “opt-out” and lock your door. These new locks create an opt-in system where you have to actively make the decision to leave your door physically open or it joins the ranks of the locked rooms in the dorm. This will force freshmen back into their own rooms as opposed to allowing them the ability to search out other freshmen’s rooms to hang out in.

Make what you will of a Notre Dame filled with self-locking dorm doors. It may not affect everyone on this campus, but I confidently believe that it will hurt more students than it helps.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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