University must increase security measures in academic buildings

In the heart of D.C., GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus sees many visitors each day. With popular businesses on the perimeter of campus and even within academic buildings and residence halls, students often eat, study and walk around campus with members of the community that do not attend the University.

GW is an open campus, so anyone can walk down the streets and into buildings alongside students. While this makes maintaining security a challenge, it cannot excuse the lack of security in academic buildings. Last month, a suspicious man entered Gelman Library and inappropriately touched a student. Later in the same day, another man was caught on camera entering the women’s restroom in Rome Hall. When I received a GW Alert that GW Police Department officers were searching for the man in Rome Hall, I was nervous because I had been inside that same bathroom an hour before the incident was reported.

GW requires that visitors tap their GWorld cards to enter some academic buildings like Gelman Library and the District House basement, but only after about midnight. It is unreasonable to have GW close its doors to visitors because of its location in an urban area, but with that in mind, GW must increase security in every building to ensure student safety.

In residence halls, GW already stations student access monitors to check as students tap their GWorld cards to enter and guests show their IDs and sign in before entering the building. Implementing that same system for academic buildings would cause a massive backup and inconvenience for students and faculty, but GW can increase security in a similar manner to keep students safe.

By hiring more students to monitor entryways of academic buildings, GW could increase security and decrease the likelihood that crimes happen in campus buildings. Last month, there were dozens of cases of theft from buildings, unlawful entry and other crimes in campus buildings, but a more consistent security presence could easily eliminate some of those incidents.

Researchers have found that increased police presence deters people from acting inappropriately and committing crimes. A practice called “hot-spotting,” when police officers are situated in areas where crime is likely to occur, has been shown to prevent instances of crime without pushing the events to surrounding areas without increased security, so the Foggy Bottom neighborhood likely would not see negative effects from using this strategy. The simple act of hiring someone to staff a desk at the entry point of academic buildings would make campus safer without requiring much extra work on the University’s part.

While adding these new security measures will inevitably incur more costs, the safety of each student and staff is worth it.

To maintain student safety, especially on an open campus in an urban area, GW needs to re-evaluate security. While crime continues to be reported in on-campus buildings, student safety is at jeopardy if there is not enough security to respond to these incidents. Restricting access to residence halls and some buildings at late hours is not enough to ensure students are safe, because these measures are limited to specific buildings at specific times.

GW should consider staffing academic buildings with student access monitors because this simple move would make students feel safer on campus.

Jennifer Cuyuch, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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