College says time’s right for 24-hour swipe

All students at the College will now need their College-issued ID card to get into residential buildings all day, every day. Though the change comes the year following the death of College freshman John Fiocco Jr., officials at the College say that the new access control policy is not a direct response to Fiocco’s death or the ongoing investigation.

Chris Chamberlin, director of Operational Services, said there were discussions about switching to 24-hour swipe access prior to last year.

Matt Golden, director of Community and Public Relations, said that in the past, 24-hour swipe was considered but deemed difficult to implement.

“What we learned in the weeks following (Fiocco’s) disappearance, when there were hoards of media on campus, was that students in Wolfe Hall asked for (24-hour swipe) to keep media out,” Golden said.

In the wake of Fiocco’s disappearance, regional and national media reports criticized the College for its open-access policy. In response, the College implemented 24-hour swipe access to Travers and Wolfe for the rest of the Spring 2006 semester.

Under the new access program, any residential student can swipe into any residential building between 6:30 a.m. and 12:15 a.m. This means that between these hours, residential students will have the same access as before as long as they have their ID cards. Because Eickhoff Hall houses the main dining hall and some facilities, such as the offices of Health Services and Residential and Community Development (ORCD), any person with a College ID can swipe into the building while the dining hall is open. After the dining hall closes, access will be restricted to residential students until midnight, after which only Eickhoff residents can swipe into the building.

The three townhouse complexes will have the same access policies as before. Swiping will be required at all times to enter a townhouse, and access will be restricted to the occupants of the particular house.

The new swipe program provides extra protection in addition to the traditional hall security workers that sit at a security desk at the front of each residence building from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night.

All of the same guest policies remain in effect. Students need to sign guests in with the security desk after 8 p.m. Guests need to leave their College ID or a driver’s license with the hall security workers.

According to Chamberlin, the 24-hour swipe program is in effect to give students the same sense of security they would have if they lived off campus.

“The system we have implemented provides for a more secure residential experience for our students,” Chamberlin said in an e-mail interview. “Our model is to secure the students’ ‘homes’ just as they would if they lived off campus.”

College administrators, Chamberlin said, wanted to balance the security of the residence halls with the community that ORCD tries to build.

“In an effort to allow for the development of solid community bonds, we have built in to the program the ability to access other residential facilities during the aforementioned time periods,” he said.

The College has considered shifting to 24-hour swipe in the past.

The Student Government Association submitted a plan to ORCD in 2004 to transition to 24-hour swipe access in Centennial and Norsworthy, but it was never implemented. At the time, ORCD cited not wanting to lay off hall security workers and enforcing the guest policy as reasons for not making the switch.

“At this point in time, the research has been completed, benchmarking has taken place and we have the technology to support it,” Chamberlin said. “Any operational challenges have been identified, examined and addressed.”

College officials emphasized that the switch is a “pilot” program and that feedback from students and staff would shape the direction of the program in the future.

“I’ll consult with residents, student leaders and other campus constituencies as the semester progresses to determine whether changes to the swipe program should be implemented,” James Norfleet, vice president of Student Life, said in an e-mail.