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ISSUE 121 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/21/2007

Residence life, public safety tighten security

By Elizabeth Mitchell
Associate Editor

Friday, September 21, 2007

Returning students this year have most likely noticed a few changes in Residence Hall policies this semester. First, an earlier lock time of 11 p.m. has been instituted in all dorms. Second, the campus has enabled residents of Thorson, Ellingson, Rand, and Ytterboe halls to use their St. Olaf ID cards as keycards, dispensing with the separate white keycard system. Last year, Hilleboe-Kittelsby was the first dorm to convert to a single-card system.

According to Pamela McDowell, Director of Residence Life, this year's changes are part of a two-phase plan. By next year, the goal is to not only enable all students to use their ID cards as keycard for dorms, but to lock all dorms at 8 pm each night to those without St. Olaf IDs and 11 pm to those who are not dorm residents.

When asked what caused the new changes, McDowell cited students' safety concerns, especially those of JCs and RAs, as well as ease of operation. For example, the new system is all on a server that can be updated immediately when a student loses a card.

Fred Behr, Directory of Public Safety, emphasized another use of the new system: emergency security. In the event of a campus-wide emergency, the new system would make it possible to simultaneously lock down all dorms to non-residents at a moment's notice.

Behr also mentioned hopes to increase campus-wide security via mass-notification, such as through PA systems and even a mass-notification system call E2 Campus, which could send notifications to students via text message on cell phones, email, and even messages on land line phones.

While Behr doesn't want anyone to be overly concerned about safety at St. Olaf, he did stress the importance of vigilance. "You hate to overreact, but you certainly need to be prepared for to occur on campus."

Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice President of Facilities, said that many of the changes occurring with security were being planned long before the Virginia Tech shootings in April, although the event called attention to security in colleges and universities worldwide.

On a student level, the new security changes have had a mixed response. Some residence hall receptionists are concerned about seeming too harsh when they refuse to let students in at night after the halls have closed.

Others, like Mohn RA Laura Lee, '08, think the new lock times will definitely increase the safety of dorms, especially on weekends. Earlier lock times can decrease the number of non-students in the dorms, making safety easier to monitor.

"We need to know who is coming in so that we can know if there is going to be a problem," Lee said. When asked what more could be done, Lee added that students, especially hall receptionists, need to follow policies- including not propping doors, especially late at night, and not letting in students who don't have their key cards. To further increase personal safety, Pamela McDowell reminds students to make sure they always lock their room doors as well.

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