Some students have faced consequences for violating MIT’s controversial dorm security policy that puts AlliedBarton security workers at front desks and requires all students to tap an ID before entering.
Two such students are Samuel M. Duchovni ’17, a Random Hall resident, and Nchinda Nchinda ’17, a resident of MacGregor.
Duchovni said he has been caught violating the policy by holding the door open for residents to come in behind him seven times, and has been warned that if he is caught doing so again, he will face a hearing before the Committee on Discipline, and could ultimately be removed from student housing or placed on probation. He strongly disagrees with the security policy and considers his violations to be acts of civil disobedience.
Nchinda says he has had a hearing before the COD and has been placed on probation for a second time for violating the policy a total of at least twenty times. If he is caught violating the policy again, he said he will definitely be “kicked out of MacGregor,” and might be required to leave MIT student housing completely.
The policy has faced a fair amount of criticism. Opponents have said it is unnecessary, inconvenient, and is overly rigid.
It’s a violation “if you tap in and hold the door open for somebody, if you are polite,” Duchovni said. “There’s a failure to understand the human cost of the policies.”
“They’re asking us to essentially police each other,” he added, referring to the fact that residents are expected to prevent other residents walking in behind them without scanning their IDs. “This is destructive to the community and [to the] bonds between people.”
We used to have a “perfectly good security policy. [Students] let in their friends whom they trusted. This was perfectly fine for Random.”
Students had always left laptops out in communal areas without fear that they would be stolen, he said. He doesn’t believe there was a security problem to be solved.
Duchovni echoed a common sentiment among dorm security opponents: the policy was implemented so MIT could “be seen to do something that has the appearance of security.”
Nchinda said that the security policy is especially frustrating on moving days. He says that before it was implemented, he could easily open the door for a pair of residents moving a heavy couch into the building.
That would be considered a violation now. If you’re carrying a heavy couch into the building now, he said, “you walk up with the couch, you drop it, you tap your ID. [Then] you go in... it’s an annoyance.”
While Nchinda is not a fan of the policy, he says he’s “definitely not purposefully violating it.”
“It takes effort to be conscious of it,” he said. “Now I have to take the effort to be conscious of it.”
Duchovni and Nchinda both said that residents of their respective dorms have moved out due to the security policy.
“They felt strongly about the policy, so they just moved out to frats or to independent living groups,” Nchinda said. It contributes to the reason the Division of Student Life doesn’t have more students complaining about the policy. “It’s because people who have the strongest feelings moved elsewhere.”
He says he conducted a survey of MacGregor residents and found the consensus was that residents would prefer a less strict policy, and find the current policy inconvenient and difficult to follow. (He suspects that it was his sharing these findings with the COD that prevented him being removed from MacGregor.)
Nchinda noted that his dorm’s RLAD probably spends a lot of time sending out emails to students caught violating the policy, since so many people have trouble following it.
Duchovni had stronger opinions about the fact that DSL requires RLADs to send emails to students caught holding the door open for other residents.
“The RLAD is supposed to be sort of a part of the support network, is my understanding,” he said. “Not the police officer who is telling you you’ve broken the rules.”
Duchovni questioned the reasoning behind why it’s so important that students tap in even when it is clear to everyone involved that they are a resident.
“The standard explanation is that it’s about safety, and if there is a fire or some emergency, you want to have some record of who is in the building,” he told The Tech. “The problem is people do not tap out.”
He said that the likelihood the information would ever be useful is so low that it is not worth the cost to the community.
If there were a lot of thefts, he said, then maybe the system would be useful to curb that problem and track when the potential perpetrators enter the building. That would be a different situation, he said.