Residence Hall Policy Change: balancing safety and convenience
Story and Photo by Brandon Zicari
Editor’s Note: Henry Bowers and Ryan Samuels are roommates with Brandon Zicari, who wrote this story.
Signs emblazoned with the phrase “Welcome Back Hilbert Hawks” waved in the breeze in late August, as the Hilbert staff and student leaders helped new students get checked in, helped to unload their cars and tried to ease the nerves of parents dropping off their child for the first time. Returning students had it a little easier, knowing what to expect, reacquainting with friends and with parents who are more used to the process.
But there was one difference returning students noticed quickly. Residents were told their room keys will only work in their designated residence hall, a change from previous years when their key would grant them access to any other residence hall on campus.
Every year once move-ins are completed, the resident assistants hold their housing meetings for the designated hall that they are in charge of for the year. It is basically Expectations-101 on what is expected of students living on campus. At the meetings resident assistants had to alert their residents of the change concerning their access into the dorms as part of the presentation on safety procedures and the rules on campus.
“A lot of students were professing or speaking out about what they wanted to see differently from the institution,” Jill Splawski, director of residence life, said in a recent interview. “A few of those things that came back to Residence Life were effective communication and looking at ways we are keeping students safe.”
Prior to this year students’ keys opened all five dormitories on the Hilbert Campus. The change in limiting access has come as a surprise to many of the residents. What seems to be the most glaring concern amongst the residents is the fact that only Trinity Hall and St. Joe’s Hall have computer labs, meaning that students who do not live in those buildings don’t have access to the printers located in those buildings.
Labs in these buildings are open from 7 a.m to 7 p.m., but now require a resident of St. Joes or Trinity to sign other students in.
The labs are an integral part of many students’ daily scholastic activities, Henry Bowers, a Hilbert student who lives in Leo Hall, said.
“Making students sign in just to print something or use the computers seems like a waste of time,” Bowers said. “Many people that live on campus don’t own a printer so having the option of using the computer lab is vital.”
Another problem with the new key system students have complained about is that it limits the ability to visit friends in other halls. If a student in an apartment wants to visit a friend who is in another hall they have to go through a sign in process. An identification card needs to be on file and the time someone leaves the building must be recorded. Although students are not forbidden from these halls, some don’t want to go through a whole process just to see their peers. “Now that I can’t get into these buildings, I feel isolated from others on the campus” Ryan Samuels, another resident of the Leo apartment said.
While some residents may not agree with the new campus rules, having a sign in procedure is very common on other campuses, Splawski said. She was surprised to see the policy was not in place when she took the job in 2016.
If every student has access to all the buildings it could possibly become a threat to others, Splawski said. “If we are looking at campus from a security perspective, having access to every residential community is not necessarily the safest thing for that community. We can’t control who is coming in to that facility or put restrictions on that.”
The policy was already under review last April when an incident of an alleged threat at Hilbert occurred, leading to an internal review of campus safety procedures. But information gathered during the resulting review of safety policies was included in the decision to make the policy change, Splawski said.
Hilbert ranks high in terms of safety and satisfaction with the residence halls, according to Niche.com, something Splawski attributed to the hard work the administration puts in to make it that way.
For now, the policy will remain in place. “This will be permanent until it is proven that there is a better way” Splawski said.