Late last year, the newly-elected leaders of Student Government, Student Court, and the Student Senate were called into a meeting with two Senior Staff members, professors, and other members of the College’s committee on campus security. In the meeting, various changes to Hampden-Sydney’s security policies were discussed, including the installation of cameras, card swipe entry, and gates across campus. The meeting was adjourned with the understanding that the committee would recommend to President Howard that cameras be placed at the front and back gates of the College. Despite a push by the staff members to include card swipes in the recommendation, Student Government officials maintained a desire to avoid their installation.
Early last week, I was approached by a couple of alumni that I have come to know very well over the past two years. They were concerned with the card swipe that had been installed on the façade and lounge doors of West House over the summer. The swipe on the dormitory door is a pilot program—that is, a testing phase for installing swipes on dormitory doors across campus. I decided to go and check it out for myself. After trying and failing to enter West House using my Hampden-Sydney ID and last 6 digits of my Social Security Number, I sought out a Freshman to help me enter the building. I approached eight to ten Freshmen sitting outside of North Colonnade, and asked them “How can I get into West House?” Without hesitation, all of these young men told me something along the lines of “it’s a pain in the butt,” or “it’s not worth the effort.” So I asked them, “How many of you have been in West House?” Only one hand went up. I was finally able to access West House when a Freshman from my area appeared to take me over. He swiped his card and entered a six to eight digit code on the outside door, and again on the lounge door.
The takeaway here is that the swipe and code on the dormitory door are discouraging the usage of the lounge. It’s absolutely understandable to have swipes on lounge doors. That is simply a case of the College protecting its investment in the nice furniture and televisions that it is providing for students. In fact, I would encourage the College to install card scanners on the Bortz Library and computer labs if they would allow students to have more late-night access. However, students are going to avoid using the lounges as long as there is an increased time commitment to get into the dormitory to begin with. Furthermore, the residents that live in West House are being deprived of the significant social aspect that is the hallmark of the quadrangle. If, despite the wishes of student government and the student body at-large, the Administration desires to continue installing card swipes and key pads on the dormitory doors across campus, there needs to be a student-friendly policy drafted for the swipes. One possibility is turning off all swipes while students are on the Hill, while another could be to only activate the swipes after a certain time of the evening.
Student Government as a whole is prepared to work with the Administration to find a compromise on this incredibly important issue. We know that this is an issue that will have significant ramifications on student life going forward. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding card swipes or student life in general, please do not hesitate to contact the Senate (firstname.lastname@example.org).