Lyndsey Wajert: Rating access to residence halls

Part of the college experience is the transition into adulthood. Undoubtedly, this includes (sometimes frustrating) encounters with service providers. Recently, I waited in my room for the cable guy to show up, having been told he would come “sometimes between nine and three o’clock.” But it turns out I didn’t need to at all, because he had access to my room.

The cable guy in question was a licensed contractor working in conjunction with GW to install a product I ordered. I expected to have to wait all day in my room to let him in, but my schedule became completely booked. After figuring I could reschedule for the following day, I returned to my room that evening to discover that the product was already installed. Standing there in confusion – should I feel uncomfortable at the apparent intrusion or happy that the work was done? – I couldn’t help but remember something I learned freshman year. Though my residence hall room is “my” room, it is also a University-owned space which certain people can (and occasionally should) access.

While this is not intended to spark a campus-wide concern over security, my experience did prompt me to wonder, “Who does have access to my room?”

According to an e-mail from Juan Ibanez Jr., the associate vice president for Facilities, the following GW personnel have access to residence halls in the course of their official duties: GW Housing, University Police, Health & Safety, Facilities and ISS (Information Systems & Services),” with access to rooms being granted based on “the duties of the position.”

We can all understand why specified members of these departments are able to enter rooms. Health & Safety needs to conduct safety inspections. Similarly, if a locked door is standing between UPD and a prohibited candle left burning by a moronic neighbor, I want that door opened as easily and as quickly as possible.

But what about the outside contractors who can enter, such as the aforementioned cable guy?

“Contractors are allowed access to the residence halls for official business provided they have passed a criminal background check and have been approved by designated officials in UPD, GW Housing or Residential Property Management,” Ibanez explained.

This policy sounds reasonable as well. Given student schedules, if outside contractors were forced to coordinate with individual students about times they could install or repair something in a room, their tasks would rarely be completed.

We have no choice but to trust the University’s judgments regarding who may enter a room, and I understand there are convenience and security issues dictating why people can enter a room when no one lets them in. Nonetheless, I have to confess a certain feeling of uneasiness when I returned to see that someone other than my roommate had been there.

Not surprisingly, I stress the necessity of keeping doors locked. Locking a door will help ensure that, other than the residents, only those trusted individuals who need and are granted access to a room are those who will enter.

I also want to emphasize the importance of moving valuables out of sight, taking note of where belongings are placed and maintaining a somewhat organized room. These tips may seem common sense, but much too often students become overly comfortable in their home away from home and treat a residence hall room like their old bedroom.

Just a few weeks ago, I stood in my University-owned room pondering whether or not I should feel annoyed about an apparent lack of privacy, or relieved that I didn’t have to rearrange my schedule for the cable man. Now, I realize that GW has levels of security to protect our residence hall rooms, and that the rest of the responsibility falls on us to take care of our belongings. I still have time before I am truly thrust into the adult-world, a world that can be filled with real concerns over service providers. But for now, I can simply enjoy that I do not currently have to wait for the cable man.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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