Parents Weekend policy reignites dorm security talk

Dormitory security procedures during Parents Weekend have rekindled undergraduate resentment toward new security policies implemented at the beginning of the semester.

In a letter sent in October to undergraduate residence halls, Dan Roderick, the director of housing operations, stated that Residential Life & Dining collaborated with the Parents Association and security staff members to develop a policy aimed at facilitating families’ access to dorms.

“Starting at 8:00 am on Friday, October 24, 2014 and ending at 11:00 pm on Sunday, October 26, 2014, all families who have Parents Weekend name badges only need to present their name badge and a government-issued ID to the desk attendant for verification when entering any undergraduate residence hall. They will not need to be signed in,” said Roderick in the letter.

For MIT students and affiliates, normal security policies applied over Parents Weekend: those on a resident’s guest list were required to tap their IDs to enter dorms; others had to be personally escorted past security by a resident.

Many students criticized the more lenient protocol for parents during Parents Weekend.

In an email thread sent out to Random Hall and East Campus discussion forums and other relevant lists, Random Hall resident David Kaufman ’16 wrote, “Not all students are so accepting of surprise parental visits. And I’m sure most of us think that parents of non-Randomites don’t have any business walking into the building unaccompanied.”

“Not all students are comfortable having their parents enter their living space,” added Samuel Dukhovni ’17 in the same email thread, the various branches of which had 100 or more posts in total. “This could present serious risks to student security in the case of abusive parents.”

The discussion about dorm security during Parents Weekend expanded to related issues, such as having security cameras posted around the entrances of residence halls as well as difficulties faced by residents trying to enter their dorms without their student ID.

Students also brought up concerns about hired security guards replacing the student desk workers that some preferred in smaller dorm communities.

Many of the issues discussed centered around East Campus and Random Hall, but the conversation also included problems faced by MacGregor and Next residents.

A Facebook group called “MIT Dorm Security Is Broken” was created in September and has over 150 members. According to the group’s description, it is meant to help MIT students share their experiences with dorm security, as well as discuss potential policies to address aspects of dorm security many students dislike.

The creator of the Facebook group, Morris Alper ’16, said in an email to The Tech that he created the group because he felt that students from all dorms needed a forum to discuss improving dorm security. He added that the ongoing problems with dorm security are nothing new and that some students have not been able to access the MacGregor convenience store or have had to personally escort guests even if they were already on a guest list.

“I think it’s important for us to do this because as of yet the MIT administration has not been receptive to our complaints, and I want to show them that we are more than a few isolated individuals and that we have real constructive advice to give,” Alper said in an email to The Tech.

Dorm security was also the subject of a WMBR segment Monday evening.

A separate mailing list,, was also created so that students could share their ideas about dorm security without adding to traffic on residence hall email lists.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As far as I'm aware, a more official email is being drafted to members of the administration regarding this.

If anyone relevant is reading this, know that we expect a suitable explanation for why appearing older and wearing a paper name badge is supposedly a better security check than an RFID-scannable piece of proof that you're part of the MIT community.

If the administration trusts strangers (yes, compared to students, parents are strangers at MIT) more than it trusts its own students, how are its students to be entrusted with any of the world-changing work that MIT ostensibly expects out of them?

The administration needs to stop treating us like children.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

My mother arrived at my door unannounced one morning over parents' weekend while my partner was still asleep in my bed. Had she entered my unlocked room instead of waiting for me to answer the door or had my bed and the person in it been visible from my doorway, the situation would have been at best severely uncomfortable. My parents and I differ greatly in our opinions regarding premarital sexual relationships.

David Kaufman about 9 years ago

I was quoted accurately in this article, but the quote presented out of context misses the point of my original email. While I am upset with how the administration handled security over Parents Weekend, the main message of my email (and most of the replies to it) was that the administration keeps breaking their promises to us about security and privacy in our dorms. I really wish this article addressed that issue instead.

Here's a copy of my original email/complaints (which are too long to inline with this comment):

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This is one of the few things Harvard does better than MIT.

Their dorm security consists of card readers to unlock building doors, and that's it. Some dorms allow all undergrads to swipe in, while others are limited to subsets, especially for more private areas.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

The recent changes in the past two years with Allied Barton security company being at the front desk is a waste.

MIT always had "Nightwatch" which every student is comfortable with because they understand the dorm culture and student life but to bring in outsiders to monitor us is intrusive and rude.

Piper '13 about 9 years ago

Goes to show that MIT's new dorm security changes have nothing to do with protecting students. As a recent alum, I am disappointed but not surprised.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

A visit from a parent on Parent's Weekend of all days? Very surprising indeed...

Anonymous about 9 years ago

More evidence that RLD and DSL have anything but students' best interests in mind