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No more door alarms

Letter to the Editor | Monday, December 2, 2013

Office of Student Affairs and rectors,
As a student who attended all the regular-season home games this year, I feel qualified to say that the new dorm alarm system is flawed. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it undermines security in our residence halls.
Last year, the policy on dorm security during game days was to only have one door open to swipe access by students. This makes sense, primarily because visitors to our dorms are entering through one location, likely the most central or visible of the entrances, which makes suspicious activity, like theft, less likely. This year, a new element was added – residents and visitors may only exit the same main door, or else an alarm will go off. While the intentions of this measure are admirable, it is clear that it does not work in practice.
Students and visitors are busy during game days. They don’t want to take the time to walk to the main door to exit the dorm. Rather, they prefer to set off the alarm and leave it to those remaining in the building to turn off the noise. This would not be an issue if it happened once or twice a game day, but that is not the case. The alarms in the dorms are being set off hundreds of times on each game day, to the point where walking around campus on game days sometimes includes a veritable chorus of alarms coming from various dorms.
Alarms are intended for a specific purpose – to alert residents to an urgent situation. Door alarms are intended to alert residents when a door has been propped open and the building is not secure. With this new policy, alarms have become so common that they are completely ignored. Residents do not concern themselves with whether a door is being held open or if someone simply exited the wrong door. Instead, they quickly disable the alarm before everyone in the hall screams of frustration at the incessant noise. Moreover, I worry that eventually, the alarm could be a fire alarm, not a door alarm, and students may ignore it.
Both of these cases present a serious threat to security in our residence halls. I ask that our rectors and the Office of Student Affairs seriously reconsider this policy before it leads to an outcome our community will regret.
Daniel Sehlhorst
Zahm House
Dec. 3