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Use unity to strengthen security

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, November 4, 2005

It’s easy to feel safe at Notre Dame.

The manicured quads, lulling study routine and organized dorm life all make us feel like we’re in a bubble, far removed from the outside world.

With this sense of security in our community, we don’t think twice before holding the door for someone who follows us into our dorm. And we don’t think twice before leaving our dorm room door unlocked while we’re at class.

It’s time to think again.

A rash of thefts have swept campus this fall, occurring mostly in men’s dorms. Laptops, bikes, jewelry, wallets and other valuables have been stolen in what seems to be a growing trend. A suspicious man has been seen entering dorms and walking into student rooms.

And this isn’t the first time that dorm security has been threatened. Last spring, sexually explicit phrases appeared on the walls, white boards and in the showers in Pasquerilla West. Gradually, residents came forward and reported seeing a strange man around the dorm, but hours elapsed after a lurker was seen in the showers before NDSP was called to the scene.

Have we become so complacent that suspicious people can walk in and out of dorms without being reported immediately by residents who see them?

It is time that students realize the downside of the Notre Dame bubble if a false sense of security allows thieves and potentially dangerous people to access the dormitories, the homes of about 6,000 students.

Instead of lulling us into this trusting naiveté, our sense of community should intensify our vigilance and protectiveness of our roommates’ and neighbors’ possessions. Just as we would quickly become concerned if an unfamiliar person walked into our living room at home, we must utilize the existing channels of support in the residence halls if we witness strange behavior.

Yet ultimately, this collective alertness must be combined with individual precautions. Students must get in the habit of locking their doors. Students should carefully monitor access to main entrances of dorms with swipe access – doors should not be propped open and temptation to hold the door open for unknown others must be resisted.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the dorms that are currently reacting to a breakdown in security. In its characteristically idiosyncratic way, Zahm Hall has quickly pulled together to protect its dorm against further thefts with signs, catchy phrases (you loot, we shoot) and nicknames (WD40). Vulgarity aside, the signs have raised much-needed awareness.

In order to pop the bubble of false security, it’s time for other dorms and students on campus to take their own precautions to think twice and act as a vigilant community.