Administration makes changes to keycard policy

The Office of Campus Life sent a campus-wide email on Wednesday, November 4 outlining the changes in keycard access to residence halls. Student key cards have historically granted access to all dorms until 1:00 a.m. on the weekends, and to one’s own dorm 24/7. The controversial change in keycard access has moved the 1:00 a.m. access of all dorms to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

This is not the first time that the College has implemented limited dormitory access to students. In previous years, a dorm could have a meeting to discuss whether they wanted limited access, and what time that would go into effect. In the past, there have been multiple Hillside dorms that have implemented these restrictions. These dorms were usually used as passageways for people travelling from the rest of campus to the Alfond Senior Apartments. When access restrictions were implemented in the dorms that chose to have them, the restrictions did work to reduce some dorm damage. However, this is the first time that the College has implemented restricted key card access to the entire student body.

In the campus-wide email, it was stated that the changes in the policy were constructed “in response to student and faculty/staff concerns regarding safety and vandalism.” It went on to further describe how “the college community has been impacted by increasing fire safety related vandalism, damage or destruction to signage and doors. This academic year Colby has also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of pulled fire alarms causing significant disruption to our community.”

In an interview, Senior Associate Dean of Students Jed Wartman added that this policy was not necessarily a reactionary measure. Instead, Wartman said that the change in policy was a way for the school to address student safety, and make sure that the school was doing all it could to keep students safe on the Hill.

Furthermore, the change in policy was also meant to address individuals who are not members of the Colby community accessing residence halls. The email asked students to “step up their vigilance of who enter their residence halls,” and that “students should remain aware that propping open an exterior door is a significant safety threat.”

Director of Security Peter Chenevert added in an interview: “propped doors can be an extreme safety issue.” He went on to say, “Although students may do it innocently, so that a friend who is coming will have access, ultimately when a door is propped anyone has access.” Although Security did not see a very large increase in propped doors the first weekend this policy was instituted, a student who chose to remain anonymous echoed the thoughts of many, saying, “this change is only going to make students prop more doors around campus.”

However, when this information was released, instead of seeing it as an attempt by the College to keep students safer, students saw it as an attack on their campus freedom. Anonymous students commented that: “I had more freedom at boarding school,” and “the administration must not trust us” started to emerge. This indicates that a large portion of students felt as though their voices were not heard in this decision—a decision that truly affected everyone. Students then looked towards their leaders on campus to see who exactly had a say in this issue.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Michael Loginoff ’16 said in an interview that SGA was informed of the decision via email on Saturday, October 31. In the email sent to SGA, the administration stated that the policy was already decided upon by the members of the College Affairs Committee (CAC), with the time of restriction originally set to 9:00 p.m. On Monday, November 2, however, SGA met separately with Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Erika Lamarre, and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune. In those meetings, according to Loginoff, SGA expressed concern that 9:00 p.m. was far too early, and subsequently the policy was pushed back to 10:00 p.m.

The only student input for the policy change were the six students elected to be on CAC. The committee is composed of  six faculty and  seven members of staff, along with some students. The purpose of the committee is to discuss general things that affect aspects of students’ lives on campus. Past discussions of the committee have included dialogues on sexual assault on campus, pathway lighting, and dorm damage. Despite being a campus wide issue, only six members of the CAC had any say in the keycard matter. Even then, an anonymous source said that the six students were not unanimous in this decision, and many of them foresaw student’s negative response to the decision. 

Although this policy was initially meant to only be a safety precaution, and possibly address dorm damage and pulled fire alarms, many students ultimately responded to it with negativity. Wartman reiterated this notion, saying that the policy was “not meant to create a campus issue, instead it was meant to respond to a campus issue.”

UPDATED November 10th:

As of Tuesday, November 10th, the Office of Campus Life sent a school wide email on behalf of the College Affairs Committee delaying the policy implementation. The email is as follows:

Dear Students,

The College Affairs Committee has worked to follow up on the recent change to residence hall locking protocol on Friday and Saturday nights. In light of student feedback and confusion as to the purpose and nature of change it is clear that there needs to be a more fulsome community conversation about the larger issues the change was intended to address – quality of student life in residence halls, fire safety, and mitigating vandalism and residence hall damage. As such, the College Affairs Committee, Office of Campus Life, and the SGA will work to organize a range of opportunities for students to discuss, provide input, and help develop solutions to these vexing issues.

While that work unfolds the residence hall locking schedule on weekend nights will return what it was prior to the change: all-student card access to all residence halls until 1 a.m.; resident-only access after from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Sincerely,

The College Affairs Committee

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