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Dorm Security Erratic After Burglary at Next

By Beckett W. Sterner


Desk security for many dormitories is erratic and poorly enforced, even in the wake of last month’s Next House burglary.

In an informal survey, East Campus, Next House, and McCormick Hall appeared to be the most thorough in screening visitors, while unidentified visitors could easily enter Simmons Hall, Burton-Conner, and Baker House.

Changes and improvements to desk policies in the wake of the burglary incident have mainly been limited to Next House.

Survey finds security poor, erratic

In order to test the ability of a stranger to enter the living areas of various dormitories, a Tech reporter attempted to enter dormitories without an MIT student I.D. card.

The desk worker’s response varied from a helpful “It’s open,” at Simmons, to a firm request for a name and I.D., at McCormick.

In general, an unidentified visitor -- at least one of college age -- would have no trouble entering MIT dormitories.

Simmons is essentially open to anyone from the morning until about 6 p.m, said desk worker Nicholas A. Baksh ’03.

Baksh cited the flow of construction workers into and out of the building as a difficulty in checking each person’s purpose in the building.

Burton-Conner and Baker fared little better, both allowing in a relatively unchecked flow of people. The Burton-Conner desk has long let in whoever buzzed on the intercom, often asking neither for identification nor a reason for visiting.

In general, students must have a key or Bexley Hall resident’s I.D. card to enter Bexley -- the hall’s desk does not generally admit anybody. At East Campus, students must have physical keys to enter each floor.

Security is also stringent at McCormick, where outgoing desk captain Laura E. Noren ’03 said that she had made a special effort this year to enforce the dormitory’s guest list policy.

Noren took a different perspective on outsiders -- such as construction workers -- and said that after several had come in to use the restroom, she found that if she “gave them a hard time, they won’t come back.”

But if a stranger were to walk past the desk uncaring, she said, there wasn’t much she could do to stop them except “run after him and tackle him or call the campus police.”

Only Next House changes policy

The consequences of the recent incident at Next House, in which a man armed with a large knife attempted to steal money from a student’s unlocked room, have mainly been limited to Next House itself. Most other dormitories have not substantially changed their policies.

Several days after the break-in, Next House held a house meeting to discuss improved methods for desk security, and as a result a tighter policy on checking identification was instituted.

Students from other dormitories who eat dinner in Next House’s dining hall must now individually present their MIT cards and sign in each night.

Vikram Maheshri ’03, the Next House president, said that “I’m a firm believer in the ... policy,” but ultimately “we’d like to be more relaxed with that so that we could be a little more open” for dinner hours.

In contrast to the changes at Next House, at Baker, desk worker Jaimie L. Sylman ’05 said that after the break-in, “we didn’t get any specific rules, but we did get an e-mail about it.”

She said that enforcement hadn’t changed too much since then, and that if “[the burglar] wanted to get in, he would get in.”

Christine R. Fry contributed to the reporting of this story.