While MIT sleeps, Night Watch keeps campus safe

Amid dorm security controversy, let’s appreciate a program that has worked

New security policies in undergraduate dormitories have attracted considerable attention over the last year. While controversy has overshadowed the tenure of security contractor AlliedBarton, a more low-profile and less contentious unit, known as Night Watch, continues to operate quietly behind the scenes.

As a team in the Housing Office under the Department of Residential Life and Dining, Night Watch manages security between midnight and 8 a.m. at MIT’s 19 graduate and undergraduate dorms. Their job, however, is not to be nighttime nannies who tell students it’s time to go to bed.

Rather, Night Watch guards perform two rounds of patrolling and meticulously inspect residences for safety hazards. They also deal with a host of other issues that may arise in a college dorm environment such as noise complaints or lockouts, and even engage in friendly chatter with those students living the late-night or early-bird lifestyles. When something out of the ordinary is spotted, Night Watch informs the relevant authorities, who respond to urgent reports immediately and log the others to be resolved during the day.

For those who know the Night Watch regulars at their own dormitories, relations with the guards tend be overwhelmingly positive. At Next House, the non-intrusive and diplomatic nature of our Night Watchman has made him a popular and approachable resource for resolving any dorm-related problems that arise at late hours. Similar sentiments are expressed by other undergrads from a variety of dorms, where some students have established strong connections with Night Watch on a personal level.

But for the most part, Night Watch guards form an anonymous unit, going about their business without being noticed or receiving recognition for their professionalism and hard work. While this can be attributed to their work schedule, or the fact that a web search barely returns any useful information, we also do not hear as much about Night Watch in comparison to other offices on campus such as Medical, S-Cubed, Area Directors, or Campus Police.

Given the emphasis on improving the quality of residential life services at MIT through a variety of new programs, the administration must keep Night Watch central to their discussions and not overlook the influential role they can play in fostering trust and harmony with students. For students, it is advantageous to know that there are helpful and experienced Night Watch staff available as a first line of contact in emergency situations.

The next time you are pulling an all-nighter and spot a Night Watch guard checking for gas leaks, intruders, or open windows at 4 a.m., it might be worth the while to offer him a word of gratitude for keeping the dorm safe and sound.

Anonymous about 3 years ago

I didn't even know Night Watch exist.

Ray Hua Wu about 3 years ago

"While MIT sleeps, Night Watch keeps campus safe"

...um, about those first three words...

Anonymous about 3 years ago

I can attest to the strong and positive relations with the Night Watch. I am up many nights to see and converse with the guards during their patrols, and they do an excellent job of keeping us safe and fostering trust with the residents. They deserve more recognition than they receive!

Anonymous about 3 years ago

2-- That's because headlines of Opinion pieces are written by Millennial hipster leftists, not slightly saner/more mature Opinion authors. Hence, although this particular article seems decent, the headline is childish and makes me cringe.

Also true with the other Opinion piece published today. That headline and the sub-headline are absolutely atrocious for several reasons. "Dangerous values"? MIT did not show any values.

Anonymous about 3 years ago

Nightwatch do need a website for us to learn more about who they are and what they do.

Ryan McDermott about 3 years ago

Great article! MIT Night Watch is truly great and a service that should be recognized more.

Pascal Chesnais about 3 years ago

One Night Watchman comes to mind - Big Jimmy! A lot of fond memories on the east side of campus. Jimmy had an extraordinary big heart and was recognized by the students and staff alike



He was awarded the James Murphy award for his commitment and service to the Institute.

East Campus Alum about 3 years ago

As another EC alum, I second Pascal's comment. It's been 10 years, but Big Jimmy still comes up in conversation amongst my circle of MIT friends in a way that few other MIT staff do. He's even the basis for our Mystery Hunt team's username.

Also, add a tilde() before lifton to get that second link of Pascal's to work.