Report released on dorm security

Intentions to gain student feedback, develop dorm security plans by fall

The Security Committee — charged by Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo to examine residential security issues in undergraduate and graduate dorms in mid-December — submitted its final report in February. According to Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Henry J. Humphreys, security plans for each dorm, which are based on the recommendations in the report, will hopefully be finalized in the fall semester.

Security Committee sought feedback for report

According to Humphreys, the committee was created due to immediate security concerns, such as issues with dormitory desk coverage and the Baker robbery incident in late October.

Chaired by John DiFava, MIT chief of police and director of operations and security, and Charles Stewart III, housemaster of McCormick Hall and professor of political science, the committee also consists of Humphreys, Dormitory Council (DormCon) president Ellen McIsaac ’12, a Next House Graduate Resident Tutor (GRT), several faculty members, and a member of the Office of Emergency Management.

In order to gain a stronger understanding of residential security and get feedback on what security policies are working, the committee interviewed the key stakeholders of dormitory security — house managers, housemasters, the police department, Nightwatch, desk captains, desk workers, and residents themselves.

The committee also looked at findings from the 2008 Task Force on Residential Security formed by Chancellor Phillip L. Clay. According to the report, the recommendations from the Clay Report were generally only partially implemented. DiFava noted that several recommendations from the 2012 Final Report were reiterations of the 2008 recommendations.

“I believe security in the residence halls is fundamentally sound,” noted DiFava, “but security is a constant, living issue that must be looked at all the time, and could be made tighter or stronger.” He commented that this was a general consensus among committee members.

DiFava also said of his previous experiences, “I have seen places where there’s community push-back, not community embracement of security.”

“It takes a community to assure the safety and security of itself,” Humphreys added.

The report made recommendations on residential security, desk security, and physical improvements, such as potential security cameras at dorm entrances.

McIsaac commented that graduate dorms require special attention. She noted there were additional security concerns because many are either in poorly lit surroundings or lack desk workers, and that many inhabitants in these dorms have children.

The pros and cons of professional desk workers will be further examined, Humphreys said, noting the possibility of desk worker policy changes in the fall and commenting that professional desk workers should be “given serious consideration.”

Future outreach to address dorms’ individual needs

With the work of the Security Committee completed, Humphreys plans to lead an outreach program for all dorms this term, with the ultimate goal of creating finalized security plans tailored to each dorm. Ideally, these will be done in the fall “as quickly as we reasonably can, hopefully during the first month of school,” said Humphreys.

As part of the outreach effort, he plans to schedule meetings with each residential hall in the coming weeks to receive student feedback on security and the findings of the report. The DormCon president, the president and executive board of the residential halls, and the dorm housemasters should be present at the meetings, which will also be open to students in the dorms.

Humphreys expects housemasters to publicize these meetings to students. “They are leaders of the community and are part of the community, so they have a vested interest in what goes in the building,” he said.

Both Humphreys and DiFava noted that each dorm had different security needs, and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach would not cater to these differences.

After the first round of meetings, Humphreys and Dennis Collins, director of housing, will evaluate student feedback on security, examine security conditions in each dorm, and talk to the Undergraduate Association (UA) and DormCon presidents about student communication methods to determine the next steps in implementation of the recommendations. There are tentative plans for open forums in each individual residence hall to garner further feedback.

By the end of the semester, Humphreys hopes to gain substantial student feedback and secure a professional consulting company specializing in security to help develop plans for each dorm. The company will examine each dorm’s security personnel, policies and procedures, and technology.

Over the summer, Humphreys’ and Collins’ primary goal is to work with the yet-to-be-found consulting company on developing initial security plans for each dorm. To finalize plans, Humphreys intends to schedule another round of dorm meetings to receive feedback on security plans developed over the summer.

Humphreys urges students who have opinions on residential security to attend the initial security meetings in their dorms, or share thoughts with dorm leaders or housemasters. He also encourages students to email him directly with constructive feedback, concerns, or criticism.

“Students must be educated and take ownership of the buildings as far as security goes,” said Humphreys. “An engaged community is most conducive to a good security system.”