Chase Hardin: To create a safer campus, students must step up

There’s profound irony in watching a University Police Department officer force a grandma to produce photo identification to enter her grandchild’s residence hall.

Parents weekend has come and gone, but having to sign in mom, dad and grandma shows that the University’s security practices – with extra door guards, more stringent sign-in policies and electronic door locks – have gone far off course.

Oftentimes, administrative policies only dull our safety fears without fixing the underlying problem. GW’s security issue is, and always will be, a lack of responsibility from students.

A slew of robberies in the spring semester spurred the University to action, especially in Ivory Tower, where 24-hour door guards and automatic locking doors were installed to mitigate the trend. It worked. But the problem was never inadequate UPD presence or faulty door locks.

We continue to focus on the wrong things. Earlier this semester, administrators sent out a “good neighbor training” tutorial online. The mandatory deadline of completion was late last week, but how many of us actually filled it out? I’m sure we’re all much better neighbors because of it.

As GW wages a paternalistic campaign to make students “better neighbors,” University officials are placating the Foggy Bottom community while neglecting to make students better and more responsible neighbors to those who live down the hall.

Instead of painstaking sign-in sheets and time-consuming (read: condescending and useless) online tutorials to help us become better neighbors, the University should focus on peer protection by instituting a “community watch” mentality in which students are responsible enough to recognize someone who does not belong in their particular residence hall.

Take State College of Pennsylvania, for example, where students participate in the surrounding community’s neighborhood watch program. Or Wayne State University in Detroit, where graduate students come together to watch out for crime (but do not intervene) on bikes around campus.

If GW offered materials and training on recognizing potential dangers in housing – rather than counting on student entrance monitors to demand GWorlds upon entrance – students living in residence halls would feel obligated to report suspicious activities just like in the real world.

Students should recognize the difference between someone non-threatening to bring into the building and someone they should not open the door for. Students should recognize when to turn the volume down on their speakers. And students should recognize that it is incumbent upon them, not administrators or magnetic locks, to make sure their doors are locked to prevent theft.

There will come a time – it’s called graduation – when UPD won’t be there to address noise complaints or protect an unlocked room. Administrators should stop coddling students, but students should also recognize the impending reality of independent living, especially because many students living off campus are already on their own.

Now, of course the University has a responsibility to keep campus safe. And they’ve been successful in doing that through programs that work, like the so-called three-tap system and 4-RIDE. But it’s not the administration’s duty to prevent the kinds of student stupidity that lead to campus theft and other crimes. If a student forgets to lock their door, their actions are inherently inviting robberies – and that is not administrators’ fault.

The slew of burglaries in the spring occurred largely because students earned a reputation for leaving their doors unlocked. Home security is a skill every student must learn at some point in their lives. But GW’s current procedures, which cost millions of dollars without much security payoff, make learning these skills obsolete.

That will come back to haunt us.

UPD’s presence in residence halls looks good on campus tours, but it causes students to ignore their own prerogative to keep themselves safe.

When it comes to the more asinine, useless security precautions, GW should stop behaving like a father-knows-best state. Instead it should actually emphasize what makes a neighborhood safe: a community that looks out for its own.

The writer is a junior majoring in international affairs.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.