Since RIT began construction on its University Commons (UC) suites in 1998, traffic to the area has increased significantly. With several new buildings in its vicinity and almost 18,000 students on campus, Housing Operations took action to protect against possible break-ins and theft by installing a card swipe access system.
The system, which went live in June, has since faced public opposition and vandalism. However, according to Mary Niedermaier, executive director of Facilities and Retail Services and Kurt Ingerick, director of Facilities, student-driven tampering is only reason anything seems broken or damaged.
While the system’s card locks allow for entrance into multiple buildings, Ingerick says this was completely intentional. He states that the card swipes purposely allow students to swipe into certain buildings to give them the option of being “neighborly”. Card access is divided into four groups: buildings 1-8, 9-16, 17-24 and 25-30.
Students have also discovered these doors can sometimes be opened through sheer force. “You have to apply a pretty good amount of force to get them to pop,” says Ingerick of the lightweight aluminum doors. He states that there were no problems during the summer; it wasn’t until this fall that vandalism became frequent. Door handles have been ripped off, and Housing Operations has discovered pennies and other objects jammed in doors to keep them
“We have card access at Global Village, we have card access at Racquet Club [and] we have card access currently in the [Residence] Halls, and we have not had the levels of vandalism and abuse to the system that we’ve seen at University Commons,” says Niedermaier. She and Ingerick confirm that the system was indeed tested before and after going live in the summer. They discovered one software issue after startup, but promptly fixed it.
Housing has installed monitors in UC parking lots as preventative action against theft and vandalism. Ingerick and Niedermaier work daily to fix and prevent security issues. They have had personal meetings with concerned students, and encourage students to report any further issues to them.
The project so far has cost about $275,000, and will continue to cost more as Housing Operations continues to improve security, starting by reinforcing the doors.
Ingerick and Niedermaier express surprise that students have even begun a petition on Change.org. “I’d like to see people maybe focus their energy a little bit more on social justice issues and less on things that might be inconvenient for them getting their pizza,” says Ingerick. “We are not taking them out.” Although the two face controversy, they have tentative plans to take similar measures in the rest of the campus’ residential living areas.