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Locked doors heighten dorm security

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, September 3, 2003

As move-in weekend drew to a close and the steady flow of futons, fridges and 24-packs of blue Powerade entering Notre Dame residence halls dwindled, many students were surprised to find their dorms locked last Tuesday.

According to a new directive from the Office of Residence Life and Housing, all entrance doors to both male and female dorms must remain locked 24 hours a day, with a student ID necessary for access.

Unlike previous years, student residents and nonresidents do not have to enter their birth date when opening a door before parietals; after hours, however, the code is required and only dorm residents may enter.

The final change applies to students visiting residence halls that are not their own. Previously, students could enter through any door before parietals with a quick swipe of their ID card. This year, visiting students’ access to each hall is limited to one main door that has been designated with a green dot sticker as a general access entryway. Only at this door can a nonresident’s ID card be used to enter.

While the policy came as a shock to some, it had been in the works for over a year, said Scott Kachmarik, associate director of Residence Life and Housing.

“We couldn’t implement it until all 27 residence halls had some kind of card access,” Kachmarik said.

Computer systems were finalized over the summer, enabling the campus-wide policy to be put in place.

“It’s really a continuation of last year’s security,” Kachmarik said. “The thinking is that having one main door for people to come and go will be sufficient. It may not be as convenient, but I would think it’s better than in the past when students were scrambling to call upstairs so others could come down and let them in.”

Kachmarik also emphasized the importance of having a standardized, consistent policy for all dorms across campus.

“In the past, residence halls had the power to unlock their own doors during the day at their discretion,” he said. “Now that it’s all controlled by a computerized system, we have a more standard across-the-board policy that should be easier for students to understand.”

Despite the initial confusion, most rectors echoed Kachmarik’s opinions.

“Of course it’s less convenient, but we’re living in the real world,” said Sister Patricia Dearbaugh, rector of Cavanaugh Hall. “It’s like living in an apartment building where you have to buzz up to be let inside. We like to think it’s different at college, but it’s probably a lot safer this way.”

“It’s clear that Student Affairs has the good of the whole campus in mind,” she said.

Father George Rozum, rector of Alumni Hall, found the changes in his dorm to be minimal. He said that, aside from the newly computerized door at Main Circle, the “other doors are as they always were. Key access is still available at all hours, but to hall residents only.”

Rozum and Dearbaugh both said equality among dorms is important.

“Every student must have equal access,” Rozum said. “It’s nice to be able to enter any hall during the daytime.”

While the new entrance system promotes equality and security, many students have found it inconvenient.

“I don’t know what it accomplishes,” said Sorin junior Dave Blakeman. “We all think it’s unnecessary, especially during the morning and afternoon hours when you are just trying to get into your dorm.”

Shannon Leemings, a sophomore from Howard, agreed as she struggled to balance her books and umbrella while swiping her ID card Tuesday afternoon.

“I understand the reasons for doing it after parietals, but during the day it just makes things more complicated,” she said.

In an effort to promote student understanding of the new policy, Kachmarik said that ResLife planned to send out an e-mail by the end of this week to explain the details.

Kachmarik also said his office plans to discuss alarm bells with a campus locksmith. “Right now, they all sound between zero and 45 seconds,” Kachmarik said. “Once again, the goal is to have a standard way of dealing with this.”