Ryan Carey-Mahoney: Standardize security in residence halls

We live in a city, and as a result, we have to deal with the problems that accompany urban living. But because of the lack of structure and inconsistencies in residence hall access policies, student safety is at risk.

In September, a male unaffiliated with GW entered the City Hall residence hall after piggybacking when a female entered the building. He followed her into the stairwell and attempted to forcefully sexually assault her.

Last month, a male unaffiliated with GW entered West End residence hall, also by piggybacking. After entering, he verbally assaulted a female student and engaged in a physical fight with a male student. In response, the University Police Department has stationed an officer at the entrance of The West End to avoid another unwanted individual from screaming and fighting with students in the halls.

Clearly, it is time for a change. The security for students coming in and out of their on-campus homes is not secure, and this is seriously troubling.

The University is reviewing its residence hall security model to ensure that the people entering buildings are supposed to be there. One of the considerations is placing UPD officers in upperclassman residence halls in addition to freshman residence halls. Safety issues don’t resolve themselves after freshman year, so it is laudable that the University is considering expanding its residence hall security to upperclassman buildings.

This is an excellent opportunity for a University-student partnership, where the responsibility of residence hall security falls on both parties. The University can create work-study jobs for students who would man desks in upperclassman dorms and ensure that people entering residence halls actually tap their GWorld cards, and that guests are accompanied by residents.

Putting some form of human vetting process between the front door and access to the bowels of a building is a good move by the University. It helps thwart outside guests from entering without proper identification.

But it should be students, preferably ones who live in the building, who work at the desks in the lobbies. This is not only a friendlier and less intimidating option, but a practical one. If UPD officers are overseeing front desks of residence halls at night on weekends, students can assume the role during the day.

Student security will be better maintained, and more on-campus jobs and opportunities could be created.

At the end of the day, D.C. needs to be treated like the city it is, encompassing both the good aspects that come along with it and the bad. But GW has an opportunity to stem potentially threatening piggybacking, and as the University continues its security review, it should take the steps necessary to reverse this.

Ryan Carey-Mahoney is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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