In the wake of tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007, the administration of Franciscan University of Steubenville has devised steps to better ensure the security of every student.
The most recent security addition has been the launch of the card access stations at the entrances of each dorm on upper campus.
The idea for a card access system in the dorms has been in the planning stage for more than five years, said Catherine Heck, assistant vice president of Student Life.
“The residence halls are locked 24/7 anyway, so this is just a first step at looking at all of the buildings and how to most easily lock them down” should an emergency arise, said Heck.
An interdepartmental committee was formed to develop the card access system, she said. Heck said that the committee involved Student Life, Business Services, Physical Plant, Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Enrollment Services.
“I am really excited about this,” said Heck, concerning the increase in security measures and the added convenience for students.
The door access system was launched over Christmas break and the plan is to completely unfold the use of the card access in the fall of this year, said Heck. The final touches will begin with all students being issued a new card with a proximity chip, she said.
“Right now it is still in the testing phase,” said Heck.
Suzannah Evans, resident assistant in St. Thomas More Hall, said that she was exited when she first heard about the card access being installed because of the safety and convenience it brings.
“It’s just a swipe versus trying to find the right key,” she said, explaining how hard it can be to find the correct key when it is cold outside.
“I immediately saw a lot of the benefits of it,” said Ned Hesser, resident assistant in Trinity Hall, “because a lot of frustration and confusion with residents comes … from not having (their) key when (they) leave the building.”
He said it is much more convenient to have one “all-purpose” card because it is “fewer things to lose.”
Evans said that she is still in the habit of using her original key.
She said, “As an RA I have like five keys, so that is just kind of what I am used to doing.”
Evans encouraged residents always to have their hard keys with them regardless because there are still some errors with the card readers and she does not want anyone stranded without access to his or her dorm.
While still accustomed to carrying his key, Hesser said that he finds the card access to be a nice backup for when he forgets to grab the correct key.
“There have been fewer instances of people pounding on the door to get let into the building,” said Hesser. “It makes me feel better knowing students aren’t stuck standing outside in bad weather.”
Evans said she thinks the new addition of the card access has actually caused more people to lose their room keys because they no longer need them to enter into the main building.
“I think as schools move toward remodeling … card access is becoming much more the norm,” said Heck.
As the card access becomes fully operational, students will not necessarily have to swipe their cards, but it will open with a magnetic chip that only has to “tap” the card reader, explained Heck.
“It is a one-card system, so moving to the future, other things could happen,” said Heck.
While the card is now used for dorm access, dining services and as a library card, Heck said that “it could (become) a type of card that students could put money on and they could use for laundry and they could use it in the bookstore.”
Another new addition to security measures is if a student loses his card and calls the Security Office, they can automatically deactivate the student’s card, said Heck.
“We feel that is a little more secure than a key that can be dropped and somebody could (steal) it,” said Heck.
In the future, students will still have keys to access their personal rooms and they will only be able to enter the main doors with the card access system, said Heck. She explained this card access system also allows security personnel to lock down access to a building should the need arise and also to monitor who swipes into a building.
Hesser said, “I hope students will be patient with the whole process because it’s one of the first major security updates that we’ve had … in many, many years. … Ultimately, it is for (the student’s) convenience. It’s for their safety.”