Open doors stir security fears

While Welch Hall is often revered as Yale’s finest freshman living, the unlucky experience of one Davenport College freshman may even out the score. In the first two weeks of school, during “Camp Yale,” Sharon Madanes ’08 was walking down the stairs of her spacious princess suite one night when she was confronted with a naked man vomiting in her bathroom.

“I was alone and I walked downstairs and there was just a naked man there,” Madanes said. “I had no clue where he came from.”

After waking up her suitemates to investigate the situation, Madanes learned that a student in Welch had brought the man back from a bar to her room earlier that night. Madanes said the maze of connected hallways in Welch had suddenly become a liability.

Students inviting people outside the Yale community into dorms, or passively leaving doors open for anyone to enter, coupled with a number of broken dorm entrances around campus, create an ongoing security problem. University Police recorded 28 incidents of burglary — defined as the unlawful entry of a building to commit a felony or a theft — in campus residences in 2003, compared with 16 in 2002 and 27 in 2001.

Silliman and Morse colleges have recently had their own occurrences of trespassing, with male intruders entering bathrooms where female students were showering. As neither case was a reported break-in, University Police Lt. Michael Patten said he feels the fault lies with students keeping doors unlocked or letting strangers into entryways.

“The basic problem is that the University provides a certain level of security and when people circumvent that by propping doors — they kind of neutralize whatever kind of security we have in place,” Patten said. “It comes out to what I said before, sharing responsibility for everyone’s safety.”

Patten said the Silliman intruder likely followed a student into the dorms. Silliman Master Judith Krauss said students should be more vigilant about reporting and addressing unknown persons in an entryway.

“Locking doors and entryways is a good start,” Krauss said in an e-mail. “We also have to be less reluctant to stop strangers and question them.”

Krauss said she, like Patten, feels students compromise their safety in the interest of convenience.

“I don’t think students engage in consciously unsafe behavior, but I think there is a conflict between safety and convenience,” Krauss said in an e-mail. “It’s convenient to leave one’s room unlocked so as not to have to carry keys in to the shower or bathroom.”

As a freshman counselor in Bingham, Steven Siger ’05 said he thought recent thefts in his entryway were mainly due to students’ disregard for safety measures.

“It’s from people allowing strangers into the entryways and not locking doors to suites,” Siger said.

Mark Cotter ’08, a freshman in Bingham, said recent robberies occurred as a result of student carelessness, but also pointed to the faultiness of the door to entryway A as a threat to campus security.

“The door could definitely be pressed down,” Cotter said. “If you pulled with enough force, you could rip it open without a keycard.”

Davenport freshman Diana Bernal also said her entryway is not secure. Bernal said she was once studying in her room at 4 a.m. when a Calhoun sophomore walked into her room, asking how to get to entryway A. She said while students do leave their doors unlocked, this recent intrusion into her suite was in part due to the entryway C sensor, which allows any student with a Yale ID to gain access.

“Anyone can use their Yale ID to get into Welch entryway C for some reason,” she said. “So C is open at any point. If you walk in through C, you can walk across all the suites.”

In response to a new Yale College Council proposal that would allow universal access to all the dorms on Old Campus, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said that she understands how students like Bernal could be frightened by unfamiliar Yale students walking around their entryways.

“Imagine yourself living in Welch and somebody from Ezra Stiles or Morse has access to your entryway,” Trachtenberg said. “The freshmen are very vulnerable — if someone you don’t know has access to your entryway, it could be very frightening.”

Krauss said she feels that only students directly influenced by recent trespassing incidents are more conscious of safety issues — overall, Yale students continue to leave the door open for possible trouble.

“I think people feel safe inside the colleges until there is an intrusion,” she said. “Then, I think people become more safety conscious for a while until convenience takes over — I still close almost every entryway door on my way to dinner and have to close them again on my way back.”

Propped doors and compromised sensors have been the cause of several intrusions this year, whether from fellow students or complete strangers.
Susan Keppelman
Propped doors and compromised sensors have been the cause of several intrusions this year, whether from fellow students or complete strangers.

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