Dorm security will see enhancements

Guards and cameras are planned

Residents of Baker, Masseh, McCormick, Next House, Simmons and the graduate dorms Tang Hall and Westgate will see changes to security this fall. As part of phase one of security updates, MIT Residental Life and Dining has hired professional desk attendants from security company AlliedBarton, instituted a visual verification for entering students and guests, and will install perimeter security cameras for the seven dorms.

According to Henry J. Humphreys, senior associate dean of residential life and dining, the professional desk attendants will be at desk from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. at night and take over all security responsibilities including tracking guests. Students will still work at desk to deliver services such as checking out equipment. “We did not take away the student employment opportunity,” said Humphreys.

According to Dean Humphreys, the hiring of outside security will have no impact on the existing Nightwatch program. “Nightwatch serves a slightly different function than the desk attendants. The desk attendant is a stationary post, whereas Nightwatch, in addition to sitting at the desk, have to make two rounds through the building. Plus, if there’s an emergency from inside the building, [the Nghtwatch] has to go respond to the emergency,” said Humphreys. “The desk attendant, if there’s an emergency in the building, would contact the house team [and/or] call MIT police, but they would never leave their post.”

Another security change is the replacement of a card scanner in the building’s vestibule with a card scanner at desk. When an MIT ID is scanned, the student’s face will appear on a monitor for visual comparison. If a student does not have an ID, they may enter the dorm after providing their name and being compared to the monitor. “To an MIT student, [entering the dorm] should still seem like a seamless process,” says Humphreys.

Each student in the five undergraduate dorms will have a guest list of up to 10 students. The housemaster and the house government are responsible for placing any additional restrictions, if any, on guests. Registered guests may enter the building upon ID swipe. After 12:30 a.m., all guests must be escorted by residents, similar to existing policy. Guests will not be required to track exits, but entrances and exits of contractors such as plumbers will be tracked.

After the completion of phase one, all five undergraduate dorms will have security cameras installed outside the building and in the lobby. Previously, only Simmons had installed cameras. Cameras will not face the hallways. The desk attendant will be able to view live footage of the monitors. Any recordings will be stored by MIT’s Security and Emergency Management Office within their existing policies.

The security changes are based on the 2010 security report authored by Professor Iain W. Stewart and Police Chief John DiFava after a robbery in Baker House in 2010.

Information about the security changes and a form for submitting comments will be available online by Aug. 19. “We’re looking at the policies … as individual pilots. … We are seeking comments from community members to bring back to the house leadership to fine tune those policies over time,” said Bauer.

It is currently unclear in which order security will be updated in other dorms. Phase two was described as including most East Campus buildings and graduate dorms, and is slated to occur in the summer of 2014. In phase three, all undergraduate and graduate dorms will be included, as well as the on-campus sororities Kappa Alpha Theta and Pi Beta Phi.

“We would not be putting desk attendant programs [in Green Hall and Pi Beta Phi], but we would be upgrading the card reader systems and the cameras,” said Humphreys.

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

"Another security change is the replacement of a card scanner in the buildings vestibule with a card scanner at desk. When an MIT ID is scanned, the students face will appear on a monitor for visual comparison."

How may I ask are people going to be authenticated if a bunch of them walk in at the same time? Does everyone have to wait in line for each person's face to be verified? If yes, it is going to be extremely time-consuming. If no, how is it different from "card scanner in the building's vestibule"?

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Comment 1 is right on the spot. A major way unauthorized people currently get in is by following others through the door.

Verifying every single person individually by photo is time-consuming and inefficient. Anything short doesn't solve the problem that's being targeted.

We need to focus on encouraging good practices, such as having residents point out people they don't recognize when the stranger tags along.

I'm not convinced these new updates have much, if any, benefit.

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

I would like to second the opinions expressed in Comment 1 and Comment 2. As an incoming Maseeh resident and former resident of Simmons, the security "updates" strike me as inefficient and ineffective. It seems as though the changes will unnecessarily punish legitimate dorm residents while creating only superficial roadblocks to potential law-breakers. I agree that checking every individual by photo ID, especially when a large group of students enters the dorm, is ludicrously unnecessary and time-consuming.

As a follow-up question, would the 10 guests per resident be required to be MIT students holding MIT ID cards? What would be the security procedures for allowing non-MIT guests (family; friends from nearby colleges) to enter the dorms?

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Who made this decision? Were students involved in the process?

This stuff is a one-way street. Once these restrictions are imposed on your daily life, there's no going back.

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Supposedly, according to an e-mail Colombo sent out, some undergraduate and graduate students were involved in some meetings or other, though whoever they were, they sure kept quiet about such big changes.

Anonymous almost 11 years ago

Peephole security is another important issue that should be addressed for students living in dorms as well as on and off campus apartments. Most college and universities dorms do not provide a solution or make students aware of the risks involved when someone tampers with the uncovered peephole on their door. For more articles and information, visit