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DormCon Considers All-Dorm Card Access

By Kelley Rivoire

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

The Dormitory Council is considering a plan to grant undergraduate students card access to undergraduate dormitories in which they are not residents.

The plan would “give dorms the option of basically asking the Card Office to put all undergraduates on the list” of people allowed access to the dormitory, said DormCon Vice-President Joshua Velasquez ’06.

He said the plan would only be pursued if dormitories are given the choice of whether to participate. “If we do pursue it, we would give dorms the option of opting out,” he said.

The plan will be discussed at the next DormCon meeting on Nov. 18, said Velasquez, although he does not know if there will be a vote.

Thefts prompt idea

Recent thefts in campus dormitories such as Baker House prompted the evaluation of dorm security that led to this idea, Velasquez said.

The hope is that front desk workers would have fewer people to screen, increasing the probability of identifying non-undergraduate students. “People who don’t belong at the dorms will be waiting at the door” if the plan is implemented, Velasquez said.

One disadvantage of allowing more people access to dormitories, he said, would be a potential increase in “piggybacking,” in which someone without access follows someone with access into a dormitory.

DormCon has not yet looked into the feasibility of the plan, Velasquez said.

Housing Office concerned

Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson said that any plan that would allow non-residents access to a dormitory is “very, very concerning in terms of security... I think it needs a lot of discussion.”

She said any implementation “would be all or nothing,” meaning all dormitories would need to participate for the plan to go through.

Daniel L. Michaud, manager of the MIT Card Office, said that changing card access is “very easy to do,” and could be done for any or all dormitories in “five to ten minutes of programming.”

Many against proposal

President of McCormick Hall Alice Wuu ’05 said that “McCormick would not be in favor of opening the dorm to all MIT undergraduates” and would not support the DormCon plan.

McCormick has a “strict guest list policy” under which all non-residents must either be on the guest list or escorted by a resident, she said. She, the housemasters, and the desk captain all agreed this policy should be retained, she said.

Jeff S. Cohen ’06, president of Random Hall, said he would not expect Random Hall to participate. He said he would like to maintain the strong sense of community at Random Hall. “People look twice when they see someone they don’t know” at Random Hall, he said, so he would like to keep the current guest list policy.

Cohen said that the policy might benefit some dormitories, and whether the plan is “good or bad on security varies a lot from dorm to dorm” depending on the community.

Martijn Stevenson ’05, president of Baker House, said he does not think the change in card access is necessary, as he believes the current Baker House policy is sufficient. “Residents are the ones who are supposed to have access,” he said, but he will talk to the desk captain before deciding whether or not Baker House supports the plan.

Velasquez, who is also president of New House, said he does not believe the New House desk workers will support the plan, and he will vote according to the opinions of New House residents and desk workers.

Nicholas G. Baldasaro ’05, president of Burton-Conner House, said that the plan is “potentially a good idea,” since many cases of theft have been the result of desk workers being overwhelmed by too many people entered at once for all of them to be questioned.

Desk workers unsure

Tabitha F. Bonilla ’07, a desk worker at New House, said that she believes many thefts in dormitories are committed by students. As a result, the proposed policy would introduce more security risks. “Having a log book [for non-residents] isn’t that big of a deal,” she said.

Tania S. Sierra ’07, who works at the Burton-Conner House desk, said that unless a detailed record of card access attempts is kept, she thinks the proposed policy would incur a greater security risk and would allow more piggybacking to occur.

If the proposed change in card access is not implemented, Velasquez said DormCon would also consider ideas suggested by Cheryl N. Vossmer, Campus Police Sergeant. Some ideas include changing desk layouts or making a video campaign to make students more aware of security problems.