Before this school year, residence halls’ main doors were open to students, passers-through and anyone else who needed or wanted to get in and out of the buildings. This year that changed and residence halls are now locked during all hours of the day and night. Even residents only have access to their own halls.
“There are three real factors that were included in the decision to change the lockdown policy. These include embracing increasing security, the technology that allows for stronger building protection and real attacks that point at creating unforeseen risk,” said Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Wermedal.
However, students, like former Students’ Association President Mark York, do not feel that safety is an issue on campus.
“I feel that by keeping the dorms locked it is tougher to interact and build community,” he said. “It also creates problems with retention and student connection on campus.”
Another argument York had for why the lockdown policy should be removed, is because he believes it does not hinder others from opening the door for someone. Doors are often opened for people who stand and knock at the doors if they have forgotten their ID or are not a resident of the building.
“I am a 23-year-old man with a beard, and I can still easily get into the dorms,” he said. “It’s not making it more difficult for anyone who wants to get in to be able to do so.”
He is not alone in his beliefs. Jay Wright, a sophomore political science major from Brandon, S.D., said the policy is more or less an irritant because he feels “more than safe” on campus.
“I guarantee I’m not the only student who is annoyed by it,” Wright said. “Maybe it would be nice to change it so I don’t have to set down what I’m holding and swipe my card to get in. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but two to four times a day gets old, especially since we live in South Dakota and not New York.”
Although Wermedal said this policy may not be the most convenient for students, it is in place to help bring higher safety to the residence halls.
“There has to be a balance between convenience and security. It cannot be so secure that it is utterly inconvenient but convenience can’t be put ahead of security,” Wermedal said. “Each year, 4,000 sons and daughters from South Dakota and the upper Midwest are entrusted to our care. Policies that protect students are critical.”
There are some students, though, who feel safer due to the 24-hour lockdown policy.
“I am in favor of keeping the 24-hour lockdown policy,” said former SA Senator Rebecca Powell. “It is a way for students to feel safe and a good precaution because you never know what’s going to happen. It is about trying to find common ground for safety. It is, above all, a safety issue.”
New SA President Jameson Berreth said he will try to make the policy more convenient for students next year, while taking both points of view into account.
“We will work with student groups to see what groups are affected,” he said. “Then we will work to make it more convenient but also keep in mind the safety concerns.”
Even if students don’t feel the policy affects them personally, the policy may affect a group they belong to. Nickollette Larson, a medical lab science major from Groton, S.D, and a member of Sigma Alpha, said the group had to find a new place to meet after the policy was enacted.
“The sorority that I am in used to meet in the basement of Hansen. Since most of us don’t live on campus we had to move the meetings to a different location,” she said.
The change in policy is in response to incidents that happened in places other than the residence halls and downtown, York explained. Because the issues have not been attributed to SDSU, he sees no need for a policy of this nature in the residence halls.
“There are many other solutions, such as allowing everyone with an SDSU ID to get into the residence halls between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. and then only students who reside in each hall could get in from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.,” York said.
Wermedal said SDSU is too deep into the semester to change the policy now.
“The extra traffic from construction also makes a poor time to change the policy now,” Wermedal said. “I know [SA president] Jameson [Berreth] and [vice president] Wyatt [DeJong] well and will work closely with them during the summer and next school year. Now they and everyone else are focused on finals. We have to let them be students first.”
Another point made by administration and residential life is that most schools already have a 24-hour lockdown policy in place.
“In general, campuses across the United States have not just their residence halls, but all other public buildings, locked,” Wermedal said. “The potential for large-scale events such as an active shooter is reality.”
Before any changes are recommended, Berreth said SA would look at the issue from the standpoint of both students and Student Affairs and come up with a plausible compromise.
“Many of the conversations will begin outside of the (SA) senate and later may be brought up in SA meetings either as a resolution or a discussion topic,” Berreth said.