University must fully secure residence halls

Crime is a daily reality in big cities. D.C. is no exception to this rule, as the city has a theft rate that is more than twice the national average. More alarming, the District’s violent crime rate is two and a half times that of the rest of the country.

Our city campus sees its fair share of crime too. While the GW Police Department does an admirable job of protecting its large urban campus, a recent analysis revealed that residence halls lack security up to 98 percent of the time. To my knowledge, my residence hall, Francis Scott Key Hall, has never had any form of security personnel in the entryway, and I have never had to show my GWorld card when tapping into the building.

This lapse of security is unacceptable, especially considering GW’s location in the center of D.C. While the lack of a student access monitor presence may make visiting friends easier, it also leaves buildings vulnerable to unwanted visitors.

Many residence halls are located near frequently-used public buildings like Whole Foods, GW Hospital and the Foggy Bottom Metro station. This proximity to public buildings is unique to urban campuses and requires additional measures to ensure student safety.

The University touts its three-tap system in its tours for prospective students, one of which I attended when applying. The three-tap system requires tapping your GWorld card to enter the building, at a desk staffed by a security employee and at the stairwell or the elevator. However, without a security monitor at each residence hall, this system can be very easily overcome by simply waiting outside the dorm for a student to open the door. While the other two steps of security are positive, the University must staff security monitors and meet this security standard to protect students and their belongings.

At least on paper, some of GW’s peer schools offer 24/7 security in residence halls. Boston University claims to have security personnel stationed at the main entrances of large halls at all times, while all New York University dorms have public safety officers assigned to their entrances. Similarly, students at the University of Pittsburgh swipe their cards under the scrutiny of welcome attendants located at nearly all residence halls at all hours of the day.

The entrances of residential colleges at the University of Miami – where University President Thomas LeBlanc served as executive vice president and provost – are monitored by security assistants between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The model of the University of Miami is of particular interest because it represents a compromise between around-the-clock coverage and none at all. At the very least, GW can offer student access monitors while students sleep, a step that would reassure students as they rest.

Students should not have to worry about their safety in their dorms. We have enough to worry about. The University already provides services like FixIt as any landlord would, so it needs to provide appropriate security to its residents as well.

Residence halls are homes for the majority of the undergraduate student body for at least eight months out of the year. It is well within reason that the University provide the bare minimum to protect what we grow to call home.

Matthew Zachary, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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