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.