There was once a time when students’ access to campus was controlled by two simple variables: whether you had a key to your dorm, and whether the building’s doors were unlocked.
In 2001, the Association of Student Representatives — renamed Student Government Association in 2013 — successfully lobbied Trinity to ditch the keys in favor of proximity card readers and ID cards outfitted with microchips, much like the ones we use to swipe into buildings today. Access changed: students living on campus could now use their Trinity IDs to access into their own residence halls. But only the students living on campus could swipe into the dorms, and students living away from campus had no access to the residence halls.
That isn’t the experience that the senior staffers of today’s Trinitonian have known. We’re used to our off-campus pals buzzing themselves into our residence halls to hang out, or to meet with student organizations in the Lightner Tea Room, or to study in the lounge between North, South and Susanna. What gives?
It was only in 2006 that off-campus students were granted access to the residence halls, and that’s all thanks to an ASR senator named Katrina Bayer. That fall, Bayer reached out to more than 20 universities in an effort to convince Tuttle to provide all-campus access to non-residential students.
She was successful. The ASR senate brought about change to campus policy. An article in the Oct. 20, 2006 issue of the Trinitonian summarizes the senate’s stance:
“ASR argued that Trinity was different from other schools and students should be allowed access to each other’s residence halls to promote the concept of campus unity.”
Bayer also defended her position on the basis of important security concerns. She was in contact with a member of Rhodes College’s residential life staff, who explained how granting residence hall access to off-campus students had solved a security problem at Rhodes.
Seniors and off-campus students were becoming ‘tailgaters’ who would stand outside the residence halls, waiting on someone with dorm access to let them in. The loitering was embarrassing for students and unsightly for others. It was never quite certain whether the purported senior really was a student or someone with less benign motives — and what underclassman is going to ask to see an ID before opening the door for them?
Though proximity card readers keep records of who enters which buildings and when they do so, the readers can’t keep track of people who simply saunter in through a door held open for them. This makes make it more difficult to monitor building entrances and catch culprits in just the cases that these logs are used: in the course of investigating on-campus crimes and other policy violations.
Monitoring, security — where’ve we heard this recently?
“As many of our off-campus students have learned, effective this fall, only on-campus students have access to the residence halls. This decision was made to enhance security and improve monitoring,” Tuttle wrote in an email to all students on Aug. 24 of this year. “With this decision we have prioritized security over convenience.”
We’ve returned to the pre-2006 era of aggravated, tailgating seniors. You know what they say. History repeats itself: First as tragedy, then as farce. Well-intentioned it may be, the policy is confused and contradictory in new ways; an inconvenient solution to a problem that would be better solved through other means.
Anyone living on campus can still enter any other residence hall, even the ones they don’t reside in. In fact, the only students shut off from any residence halls are the students who aren’t living under ResLife’s watch. According to David Tuttle, students in City Vista can enter McLean with no problem, while students living on Mulberry Avenue or on the side streets across from Thomas, Lightner, South and North receive only Murchison Lounge access.
So the policy doesn’t limit all that many students from accessing the dorms, for whatever safety benefit that may grant us. Are non-residential students who aren’t living in City Vista a uniquely dangerous population?
No, and we know this because Tuttle kindly answered some questions posed to him by the Trinitonian earlier this week. He explained that the decision was not reached after a survey of campus crime and policy-violation reports by TUPD, but rather after a situation involving a former student whose access hadn’t been properly shut off. He noted that many other former students still had access. Is this a reason to cut off off-campus students’ dorm access, or to tighten the procedures for managing campus card access?
Did Tuttle’s office survey students or contact student representatives in SGA before changing their constituents’ card access? No, and he says it wouldn’t have affected the decision anyway. You might think the university would consult the students who were elected by their peers for the express purpose of developing and advancing students’ interests. But you’d be wrong.
SGA has been reduced to a funds-apportioning body. It’s supposed to be the voice of the students, and the administration ought to treat it as such. That would involve having senators solicit students’ opinions, then having the senate act in students’ interests, not the administration doing so. Read John Croxton’s guest column on exactly this point, published in this issue of the Trinitonian. We’re with him.
Look, students can’t do much about campus going tobacco-free at this point. We may be able to change this card access policy. More valuable than changing a specific policy would be letting the administration know how you feel about their approach to policies that affect student life.
By the way, there’s still a chance to do so. Tuttle will explain the rationale behind the decision and answer students’ questions at next week’s SGA meeting. Meetings are held on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. in the Waxahachie room, on Coates University Center’s second floor. We’ll see you there.
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