On any given tour, tour guide Austin Broussard ’06 never fails to mention security to the 30 or 40 people he is showing around campus. He points out the blue phones, talks about the escort service and the minibus, and describes the cooperation between the Yale and New Haven police. But campus security is not an issue only for prospective students and their concerned parents; it is an issue for current students as well.
Given Yale’s urban location, security has always been a priority for Yale administrators. Over the past several years, though the city crime rate has gone down on the whole, Yale has continued to improve its security. Yet compared with other Ivy League universities in similar urban settings, parts of Yale’s security system still seem to be lagging behind.
There are many aspects of security at Yale that function the same way at other universities. Above all, universities encourage students to lock their doors. Students are urged not to walk alone at night and to take advantage of the escort services provided. Yale, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania all provide similar escort services, both on foot and by shuttle.
Yet when it comes to dormitory security, Penn, located in Philadelphia, and Columbia, located in New York City, use an extremely different system than does Yale. At Penn and Columbia, there are guards in every single undergraduate dormitory.
Of course, the dorms at these universities are themselves very different. While Penn and Columbia have dorms that are more like apartment buildings with lobbies, Yale’s college system does not seem to be conducive to the same type of security.
Erica Ross ’06, whose room was robbed while she was in the shower, said she does believe Yale needs to look more closely at dorm security.
“Yale security definitely needs to be re-evaluated,” she said. “We have to find a way to make students safer without making them feel overwhelmed by restrictions.”
Yale, like most schools, uses a keycard identification system to allow only authorized individuals to gain access to campus buildings and dormitories. Yet unlike many other urban schools, Yale does not station guards in undergraduate dormitories.
Many students said they have found that it is not particularly difficult to enter a building when they forget their ID cards. Many go running without their ID cards and rely on other students to let them back into their dorms. And many recognize that letting in guests is not an issue either. But sometimes people who are not affiliated with the university manage to get into buildings as well.
This past weekend, a Dead Prez concert in the Ezra Stiles dining hall ended up attracting a large crowd of non-Yalies late at night. There were several signs on Broadway that instructed people to enter the “next locked gate on the right” and to “get students to let [them] in.”
Ezra Stiles Master Stuart Schwartz said he was displeased with how the concert was handled.
The event highlighted how easy it is to obtain access to Yale dormitories. Though students are told over and over again not to hold the door for strangers and to check to see if the person wishing to gain access is indeed a Yale student, many students said they find such an expectation unrealistic. Students said the more intimidating or “questionable” a person looks, the less likely a student is to ask to see the person’s ID.
At Penn and at Columbia, students must not only swipe their cards to gain access to undergraduate dormitories; they must walk past a guard and sign in any guests they have. The number of guests may be limited, and guests must leave some form of identification at the front desk. Long-term guests — those who are spending a night or two — must have their ID copied.
Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety at Penn, said Penn students must swipe their cards and punch in a pin number in a glass portal before entering the building where the security guard sits. She said the dormitories have had guards for at least 10 years, though official security guards replaced student guards in 1995.
“It was just one more level of security to add to the card system,” Rush said.
Noah Solowiejczyk, a Penn sophomore from New York City, said he would feel uncomfortable without the guards.
“I think we definitely need the guards,” Solowiejczyk said. “If there were no guards, I do think people would come in.”
At Columbia, the process is basically the same. But Carolyn Vine, a Columbia sophomore, explained that while she values having a guard, she does not think the tedious procedures required for guests are necessary.
“I like having a guard there, but I sometimes feel that signing a person in and out each time is a bit excessive,” Vine said.
Most Yale students, however, seem to think that guards would be excessive and unnecessary. Irem Metin ’06 said she thought the guards would hurt Yale’s relationship with New Haven.
“I don’t think the dorms need a guard,” Metin said. “One of Yale’s major goals is to integrate itself into the city, and putting guards in residential colleges that already separate themselves from the city quite enough with their closed settings would create more of a sense of isolation. Saying to the community that we see them as a threat would not improve the relationship of the school to New Haven.”
Although many students said they do not think guards are needed, a number of students do think security needs to be improved. Yale College Council representative Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06, a member of the Transportation and Security subcommittee, has been looking into security improvements.
Kennedy-Shaffer said he is specifically trying to improve the minibus system but is also looking into increasing the number of security officers and Yale police who are on duty at night. Currently, there is one security patrol officer on duty at night.
But Kennedy-Shaffer said he does not believe guards are necessary and said what is more important than improving university security measures is getting students themselves to be more aware.
“Students are safer when students take measures to protect themselves, rather than when the university spends money on measures to protect them,” Kennedy-Shaffer said.
Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said students must take care to look after their own security.
“Most of the equipment we have is really state of the art,” Highsmith said. “To add in the human element is really important.”
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