GW must be transparent about security in every residence hall

It’s common knowledge on campus that it’s much easier to visit a friend’s room if you’re headed to a residence hall that doesn’t have high security.

Out of the 35 residence halls – excluding Greek life housing – the level of security varies greatly from hall to hall. Residence halls like District House, GW’s newest building that houses sophomores and juniors, require residents to tap their GWorld to enter and mandates them to escort all of their guests into the building 24/7. But other halls like Fulbright Hall, an older building that also houses sophomores and juniors, lack around-the-clock security, which enables anyone to enter, as long as they are patient enough to wait for a resident to let them slip in. University security officials have stated that the current security measures at all the residence halls are based on fluctuating data, like annual crime reports, population and foot traffic.

Hatchet File Photo: Renee Pineda

Hatchet File Photo: Renee Pineda

Student Access Monitors, who sit at the front desks of residence halls to check IDs, are often seen as an annoyance and a burden to many students. However, the security at residence halls such as Potomac House, an all freshman residence hall with 24/7 security presence, are welcome in the eyes of parents and guardians. But the inconsistency of security at other residence halls have caused parents and students to rightfully ask why all buildings aren’t treated equally.

It’s unfair to students and parents alike for all residence halls to not have the same level of security. A student living in The Dakota, which typically has no SAMs, should be receiving the same amount of protection as a student living in District House, which has 24-hour security on both entrances. If they aren’t receiving that expected security – requiring a resident of the building to tap you in – then the University should make it known to parents or guardians that their student is living in a residence hall that doesn’t have an active University Police Department officer or SAM presence.

The University should increase their transparency by informing students, parents and guardians during housing selection which residence halls have around-the-clock SAM presence and which lack those services. GW can properly inform their students by including security details in the descriptions of each individual residence hall on the University’s housing website. They can then inform students, as well as parents and guardians, through email once housing is confirmed.

The residence halls that do have high levels of security often vary in population. Thurston Hall can hold up to 1,116 students, while Potomac House can only hold approximately 370 students. But both have almost equal levels of security, though Thurston does have UPD presence while Potomac often does not. These residence halls are catered to freshmen, and it should be noted that the freshmen who live in Somers and West halls on the Mount Vernon Campus lack the same protection.

Meanwhile, American University’s security is similar to GW, as residence halls are locked 24/7, but can be entered with a fellow student. The primary difference between the two schools is that all 12 residence halls at American have a security monitor at the entrances, instead of only some. In this case, GW should follow that model.

While it’s fair to acknowledge that there may not be enough UPD officers or SAMs to be at all residence halls 24/7, there should still be more clarity for parents, guardians and students. They are the ones living there and paying for the housing bill, which can range from $8,860 to $15,800 a year and is required for most students to pay until senior year. On GW’s residence hall safety website, it states that guests can be signed in to residence halls with photo identification. However, that statement assumes that there is a SAM or UPD employee to sign non-residents in. But all current students know that rule is not the case for the majority of residence halls on either campus.

Frankly, it’s annoying to wait for another student to let me into the residence halls with more security. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’d rather have security at all halls than risk something happening, such as theft or stalking, regardless of how likely the scenario. There have been several instances in The Dakota, my current residence hall, this year where someone made it to the front door of my room, even though both the main door and elevators required tap access. The person at the door could have been anyone. Luckily, it was a friend of my roommate, but regardless, the ease of making it to my room without much hardship was alarming. Since the start of the 2017-18 academic year, I have never once seen a SAM or UPD employee at the entrance of my building.

What is equally concerning is that often, throughout the semester, security services are thoroughly inconsistent within residence halls. For example, while visiting a friend in Amsterdam Hall last year, I was surprised when I was asked by a SAM to tap my GWorld before heading upstairs. I had visited my friend numerous times that semester without ever needing to pull out any identification. It happened to be parents’ weekend, so one can assume why security was there in the first place. After that weekend had ended, the hall went back to having neither SAM or UPD presence.

A consistent security presence in all residence halls on campus, however inconvenient to students, would create a safer atmosphere on campus. If a 24/7 security presence cannot be attained at all residence halls, then students and parents should be fully informed when making decisions about their housing situations. While I admit I have never felt unsafe in any of my buildings, it makes little sense for prospective and current students to not have a complete understanding of the security in their costly residence hall.

Renee Pineda, a junior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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