Safety left to students’ discretion

By Lisa Chung

When President George W. Bush addressed the nation after the Virginia Tech massacre he said “schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom.”

Candlelight vigils and T-shirts worn by University students in remembrance of the victims at Virginia Tech stood as testaments to Bush’s statement. But, in light of the numerous memorial services to demonstrate support for the victims of the shooting, questions about the safety and security of all campuses across the nation have also been raised.

The University Residence Halls and Private Certified Housing buildings all have varying security measures, including specific guest policies, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of Housing.

Although the University Residence Halls do not have a strict guest policy that requires the person to sign in and out of the buildings, each residence hall has two points of locked access between the outside and the residents’ rooms, Ruby said.

The access points are locked everyday at 7 p.m. and are unlocked at 7 a.m. During those times, the doors can only be unlocked by a resident’s i-card. The locked access points serve as the first line of security at the residence halls, Ruby said. Other safety measures depend on the actions of residents.

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“Our residents are part of what keeps the community safe,” she said. “If a student does not recognize somebody else, then just letting that door shut is the best security.”

Currently, there are no immediate plans to change any of the security policies at the residence halls, she added.

“The thing that is so scary (about the shooting at Virginia Tech) is that (Virginia Tech) seemed to have all the correct security measures in place, too,” Ruby said.

Certain University Residence Halls, such as ISR, have a front desk area immediately at the entrance; the halls located on Gregory and Peabody drives do not have a front desk area since there are numerous locked entrances that lead to different wings.

Since Private Certified Housing is operated by various companies, they have differing security policies that use the front desk to monitor the people traveling in and out of the building.

Illini Tower, 409 E. Chalmers St., for example, requires that all residents sign in their guests at the front desk if it is after 11 p.m.

After the Virginia Tech incident, staff members of Illini Tower were alerted to notice those who are not residents and keep an eye out for those who seem to be experiencing problems, said Marc McConney, the assistant general manager at Illini Tower.

“What we’re trying to do next, in terms of security, is still in the works,” he said. “We’ll spend most of the summer talking about implementing change.”

When deciding to enforce new rules and policies on security, the best interest of the students is always considered as one of the top priorities, Ruby said.

“We always go back to balancing security with freedom,” she said. “These halls aren’t prisons; there aren’t metal detectors at every door.”