No locks for now

The door locks that may be the key to campus security have yet to appear in student dorms.

Despite a go-ahead from the University Housing Committee in March, the Yale College Council’s October 2007 proposal to install locks on all in-suite bedroom doors appears to be at a standstill.

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Daniel Carvalho
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“As far as I know, it’s out of our hands,” YCC President Richard Tao ’10 wrote in an e-mail. “Last I heard, the administration was in the process of finalizing technical and financial details for the implementation of the locks.”

The original proposal — prompted by a series of dorm thefts last September — called for all bedrooms in Old Campus dormitories as well as Yale’s 12 residential colleges to be equipped with locks. Although every suite door opening onto an entryway landing already has a lock, most bedroom doors do not.

When the proposal first won approval in March, University administrators and YCC members agreed that installing the locks during the summer, when most suites are empty, would be most convenient. But firm dates were never set, and the installation now seems bogged down in administrative and logistical delays.

Trumbull College Representative Tomas Rua ’10, one of the primary YCC members charged with handling the project, suggested that the project may begin “anytime up until Thanksgiving or until the end of the semester.”

But Council of Masters chair Judith Krauss suggested otherwise, saying that although administrators have drafted a tentative schedule for the installation, no work has yet begun. Once started, the process could take anywhere from 18 months to two years, she said.

The sheer scale and cost of the project, which Krauss called “hefty,” could be one factor in the delay. Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske originally estimated that the project would involve nearly 2,000 doors and cost up to $1 million. In one important step toward beginning the project, Krauss said, the Office of Facilities has requested the funds to carry out the installation, although it remains to be seen when the funds will be granted.

Other obstacles include the added burden the installation would place on residential college masters’ offices and the difficulty of planning around fire codes.

To ease the extra strain on masters’ offices, residential colleges slated for renovation will receive locks only during construction. Students will receive their keys — which will fit bathroom, suite and bedroom doors — at the beginning of the academic year following the installation.

Krauss added that because certain doors serve as fire escape routes and cannot be locked, a limited number of doors will not receive locks.

Although several students interviewed questioned the project’s usefulness — “I think we could put our resources to better use elsewhere,” said Sabrina Karim ’11, who is running to be a YCC representative this fall — others saw the locks as a helpful, if inessential, addition.

“There are times when you don’t want people just barging in, so it’s nice to know that … you can just disconnect a bit if you need to by just locking your door,” said Spencer Cromwell ’12, whose bedroom door in Farnam Hall already has a lock.

The project’s original intent was to provide students with personal privacy and security, Rua said. At the time, a campuswide survey by the YCC indicated that a majority of students wanted the option of locking their doors, especially since many keep their suite doors propped open.

“Having a lock is a really nice feature considering there is some expensive stuff in my room that would be a shame to have stolen,” Cromwell said. “I know that the doors to the suites themselves are usually not locked, and people can get in and out pretty easily.”

Said Krauss: “That’s the idea — if a room is empty, students would now have the capacity to protect their belongings.”

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