As Yale students returned to their dorm rooms after two weeks of spring break, many discovered a curious new decoration firmly affixed to their suite doors, courtesy of Yale: a blue rectangular sticker with bold print urging them to lock their doors and dial 111 in the event of an emergency.
These door decals represent one of the more visible ways Yale is promoting security awareness at a time when the entire nation is on high alert. While statistics show that Yale is a safer place than it was one year ago, a recent string of crimes inside the residential colleges has prompted administrators to confront security concerns in student dormitories.
Though the University is responsible for overseeing overall campus security, including potential terrorist threats, Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said many of the local security concerns within the residential colleges are generally addressed by each individual community.
Highsmith, who oversees the campus police and security departments, said the new initiatives in the residential colleges grew out of students’ concerns. The measures focus on promoting security awareness, including the visible placement of door decals and phone stickers with emergency contact information.
“We have a very good program of security services in place and have been focusing on encouraging folks to take advantage of them,” Highsmith said. “This year, we have experienced some increased thefts of portable computers, and as a result are taking steps to offer additional computer registration services on campus.”
Because each residential college can exercise security protocols at its own discretion, the precise safety measures in use are as customized and unique as the colleges themselves.
Branford Master Steven Smith said he fully supports increasing student safety within the college, and occasionally reminds students via e-mail to be vigilant, but added that he would rather not implement additional measures that could compromise the welcoming and pleasant atmosphere. He said that the greatest invitation to crime inside his residential college arises when students leave their entryway and suite doors propped open.
“Students enjoy coming to Branford because it is a friendly college and I would want to resist the effort to turn it into an armed camp,” said Smith, who has resisted installing new keycard access points. But he said that they could become a possibility in the future.
Just across the pathway in neighboring Jonathan Edwards College, a stronger door has recently been installed at the entrance to the college buttery in order to prevent unauthorized persons from entering. An intruder had broken the glass panel on the door in order to enter the buttery without the necessary key, thereby accessing the food supply. In early March, after two computers were stolen — one from a faculty office and another from a student room — Jonathan Edwards Master Gary Haller warned students to lock doors and only admit people at the gates who were familiar or offered to identify themselves.
“With the strike, with the rush to spring recess, etc., we are surely more exposed than usual and you should make every effort to LOCK YOUR ROOM DOORS, CLOSE THE ENTRYWAY DOORS AND ADMIT ONLY PEOPLE YOU KNOW OR WHO ARE WILLING TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AT THE GATES,” Haller said in an e-mail to students.
In Calhoun College, several changes have also been made to the physical infrastructure in order to reduce unauthorized access in the college. On the set of double doors leading to the common room, a keycard reader has been installed which now locks the doors from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the week, and slightly later on the weekends. During that time, the doors can only be opened with an ID card of a member of the college. Previously, the doors remained unlocked during the day and night.
“These changes have been implemented to make the living environment more secure,” said Calhoun College Master William Sledge in an e-mail to the community.
Additional security measures include closing off a door that connects the college’s library to a second-floor entryway, as well as placing a keycard reader on the main door to the basement. While the changes require a slight increase in students’ time to enter certain rooms, some said they appreciate the additional security.
“It’s a good idea,” said Jordan Rojas, a Calhoun sophomore. “Before, anybody could walk down to the basement to get to any entryway they wanted.”
According to recent statistics compiled by the Yale Police Department, a total of 366 crimes were reported on campus in 2002, a significant drop from the 435 crimes reported in 2001. While the number of burglaries and larcenies fell, the number of laptops reported stolen increased from 39 to 51, and the number of robberies increased from three to four.
Trumbull College Master Frederick Streets said no new security issues or measures have arisen in the residential college since the beginning of this academic year. He emphasized the role of students in fostering security in the residential colleges, as they can look out for one another and report anything that seems questionable or discomforting.
“Their practice of being mindful, prudent and using common sense while observing the expectations to keep entryways doors locked and not letting anyone they do not know have access to the college or its buildings is a tremendous asset to making the residential college environment feel safe,” Streets said.
Boris Volodarsky ’05, a resident of Trumbull, said he recalled an incident last year when a homeless man entered a suite in the college and fell asleep on someone’s couch. Volodarsky added that he always locks his doors, an action which he said was a necessary security precaution while growing up in Brooklyn.
“I do feel safe here,” he said. “I think Yale takes good care of our security.”
While some students acknowledge that current security measures are sufficient, others feel that more can be done.
“I think they should put locks on the bedrooms — all of them,” said Athena Cheng ’05.
Cheng said last fall’s trespassing incident in McClellan Hall, in which an intruder made his way into an upper-level suite and allegedly assaulted a student, caused her to consider more deeply the issue of safety on campus and within the confines of her Saybrook College community.
Other colleges have not recently reported any significant security issues that have prompted a change in security procedures.