24-Hour Guards to Watch Residence Halls Student Leaders Frustrated By Administration’s Decisions By Archie Ruparel Special to The Hoya

Archie Ruparel/The Hoya

Georgetown University will begin using professional guards to monitor residence halls, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson announced last week during a student forum on residence hall security. The guards will work at entrances to residence halls at night, during the hours student guards do not work. This new 24-hour security presence is expected to be in place no later than January, he said.

The announcement came during a GUSA-sponsored forum for students and administrators to discuss recent concerns with the lockdown policy implemented earlier this year in residence halls. Attendees included members of the GUSA administration and Assembly, students and administrators from the Department of Public Safety, Housing and Student Affairs.

Currently, only students with a sticker from a particular residence hall on their GOCard will be able to enter; that policy will continue.

DPS Chief William Tucker said that because it is difficult to find student guards to fill certain shifts, professional guards will be hired to cover these gaps, though he denied any reductions in the student guard program. He also said DPS would use unannounced inspections to correct problems of lax performance by student guards. The professional security guards would be expected only to check IDs, much like student guards, Olson said. He did note, however, that discussion was ongoing about using them to patrol residence halls.

The administrators also announced changes in Copley Hall, responding to requests from students. Copley, which is located in the center of campus and has entrances on each side, has seen the closing of all entrances but a central door. “The center door not working has been causing a lot of tension,” Olson said. The door leading to Copley Formal Lounge will now open with a GOCard “for any person with Georgetown affiliation,” he said. The door from Red Square leading into the residence hall will also open for residents using a GOCard. The accessibility is currently programmed to function between 8 a.m. and midnight.

Yet, the goal of restricting access to residence halls has not changed, explained Director of Housing Operations Bob Robinson. In response to the propping of doors and `piggy-backing,’ where residents hold doors open for others, he announced that an emergency alarm would be put into the south entrance to Copley Hall, which leads to Healy Circle. As a resident attempts to exit, the alarm will sound.

The response from students at the forum was that the alarm would be constantly sounding. “This last meeting, I thought, was a real setback,” GUSA Vice President Mason Ayer (SFS ’03) said. “I was disappointed – I thought after several months of talking to administrators, they’d have moved to solve problems instead of potentially causing more,” Club Union President Jack Ternan (COL ’04) said. He said the Club Union will be creating and distributing cards with administrators’ office phone numbers so students can call administrators to voice complaints about the policies.

“We welcome ongoing dialogue,” Olson responded. He said the administration would be “disappointed and disheartened . by any action that reduces security,” alluding to rumors that students would disable alarms and continue to prop open doors.

Students expressed concerns about access to meetings and religious services held in residence halls. During events, anyone will be able to get into St. William’s chapel, which is situated behind the guard desk in Copley, Olson said. In addition, guards are in a position to ensure people do not enter the rest of the residence hall, he explained. As for the Muslim Prayer Room, which is located in the basement in Copley, users are to have their GOCards specially encoded for access.

Administrators defended recent changes as important in assuring safety on campus. Olson argued that they were not a response to Sept. 11, but rather in keeping with a national trend toward increased security. “There is not some high profile event or some huge proliferation of events that have happened,” he said. He cited numerous Ivy League and other East Coast universities that have done the same. He said the policies were an attempt to be proactive rather than waiting for a tragedy and reacting.

He argued the policy reduces vandalism, theft and student-on-student assault. Robinson, Olson and Tucker cited numerous incidents of petty theft and vandalism on campus. Tucker added that he had statistics showing a significant drop in petty crime and vandalism in Henle Village when entry was restricted by the use of card readers.

“It’s hard calculus to hear,” Olson said. The argument that other students within a residence hall could also be potential sources of crime was not addressed at the meeting. The changes to Copley Hall are expected within the next two weeks, Olson said. According to the GOCard office, access changes to Copley will take a week to implement, but will require little actual reprogramming. Some of the alarms, he said, are already in place.

GOCard Technical Support Coordinator Roman Fahrmann said GOCard access would soon be required for ICC at night. The GOCard office is currently consulting with departments using the ICC to determine access requirements and sees the possibility of student access to computer labs and classrooms at night.

Olson said the decisions were the product of consultation between a variety of campus groups, including risk management, public safety, housing, student affairs, the senior vice president and University President John J. DeGioia. It is clear that President DeGioia reviewed many of these decisions, Olson said, and that funding has been identified. Tucker did not respond to calls and e-mails placed Friday concerning what the cost of guards might be.

Previous security changes have included the policy of not allowing students who do not live in a particular residence hall to enter unaccompanied and the closing of several side points of entry in residence hall buildings.

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