This time last month the University implemented a new security policy in response to the 31 reported thefts in the Marvin Center last semester. It mandates that during the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., students and visitors can only enter the Marvin Center through the H Street entrance or the I Street entrance, and a stationed University Police Department patrol officer will monitor these entrances in addition to periodically patrolling J Street and Columbian Square.
While I admire the University for attempting to combat this troubling string of thefts, I question just how effective this new security measure will be. What stops a thief from simply entering the Marvin Center through these two unlocked entrances? UPD officers roaming the halls and rooms could be effective, but we can’t expect them to be able to completely cover the building and question every individual who comes through the doors.
No special access is necessary to gain entrance to Marvin. No one will be at the door checking each person who enters to ensure that he or she is a student or a visitor with a legitimate purpose. This is not enough of a deterrent, and it is not one that would stop a potential thief from still gaining access to the Marvin Center. Hopefully, UPD would intercept anyone who entered the building after hours who did not have a purpose for being there – such as someone who was much older than a student at GW and could not provide a GWorld card. But this does not prevent people from actually gaining access to the building when students and University officials with GWorlds should be the only ones there after hours.
If the University really wants to stop the increases in theft in the building, it must take a more hard-lined approach – and one that has been utilized elsewhere on campus.
For starters, let’s be honest – the majority of people using the Marvin Center from the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. are students. The eateries close well before 10 p.m., the only exceptions being Wendy’s, which closes at 11 p.m., and WOW Cafe & Wingery on the fifth floor.
If someone is visiting the Marvin Center at 1 a.m. and is not a student, what exactly is his or her intention? Students use this facility late at night as a study space due to overcrowding at Gelman Library, but area visitors do not have any real reason to be in the Marvin Center so late at night.
Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell told me of his desire to “maintain a balance between an open campus environment and maintaining the safety and security of the GW community.” I could not agree with his motives more.
I propose installing a GWorld card reader on the entrances of the Marvin Center that will only be activated during the hours of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Installing a GWorld card reader that only operates late at night still allows for this balance, as it allows visitors access to the Marvin Center for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then limits access only to students when most of the eateries are closed. At that time in the evening, the space is mostly being used by students for studying and other University-related activities anyway.
Of course, this does not account for the possibility that students can commit theft too. But it does address the possible problem of having unknown individuals enter University buildings and jeopardize the safety of students and their possessions after hours, a time when outside visitors are not to enter the campus building. We see an example of this open-but-secure campus plan with Gelman, which only allows GWorld-holding students to remain in the library after midnight.
This is a measure GW has taken in regard to other campus buildings, namely Ivory Tower and the School of Media and Public Affairs. The University knows enough to keep these buildings accessible to students late at night because some students need access to those buildings. And the same should be said of the Marvin Center. Darnell says the University is currently considering installing a GWorld card reader that can be used by students and staff, and noted GW is in the process of researching the cost.
While there is an obvious cost to this measure, preventing theft and keeping students safe and secure is one of the University’s primary goals, and there should be no reason to short-change students when it comes to their general safety.
Gabrielle Friedman, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.