Little Building intruder a reminder of urban perils

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 11, 2012

At issue:
Intruder passes ID desk to enter Little Building dorm floors

Our take:
Both students and administrators are responsible for campus safety

When Robert Smith took over as Emerson’s police chief in June, he emphasized his eagerness to coordinate security in an urban environment.

“I love Boston,” said Smith. “I like the idea of a campus in the middle of everything.”

It’s doubtless that Smith’s excitement for his new role came paired with an acute awareness of the challenges a downtown campus faces. A college “in the middle of everything” comes with its own set of risks and concerns. Yesterday, an intruder to the Little Building reminded the Emerson community just how immediate those threats are.

In the moment it takes to waltz past security, the safety of students can be irreversibly jeopardized.

The suspect was led out of the Little Building in handcuffs just after 9:00 a.m. yesterday morning. Yet there has been no attempt by Chief Smith or any other member of Emerson’s administration to address an alarming situation that casts doubt on the safety of all campus residents. In the past, Emerson students have received emails about alleged crimes that have occurred on the peripheries of our campus - such as a stabbing in Feb. 2011 at New York Pizza, directly across from the Little Building. But when the scene of the crime is in our own halls, the administration is strangely quiet.

While internal acknowledgement of the security breach is needed, Smith and the ECPD should also have sent students information on how to assure their safety on - and off - campus. The administration can have no excuse for its uncommunicativeness and inaction, which fails to inform or prevent another incident.

Security desks at Emerson are staffed by a combination of resident assistants, Securitas officers, and students assigned by student employment or work study. While it’s unquestionable that the intruder entered the secure residential area on their watch, it is incumbent upon the administration to ensure incidents like this aren’t par for the course.

Most students will never have the terrifying experience of a stranger entering their dorm rooms in the dark of night. But each of us can imagine the fear and anxiety our peers felt under those circumstances. Security measures like ID-tapping might seem inconvenient, annoying, or patronizing, but they are necessary for our community’s safety.

Yet the student body cannot be completely absolved of responsibility. Yes, there is an implicit guarantee that the administration will secure our dormitories, but no measures are perfect. We specifically chose to attend a college in the middle of a city, not in the middle of nowhere, and with this choice comes the duty to be aware of the dangers of a fast-paced, unpredictable life.

Unlocked doors are a hallmark of the Little Building’s open and inviting atmosphere, and that tradition should not fall to the wayside. But if you choose to keep those doors unlocked for the steady stream of friends and classmates that pass through, be mindful that many more people make up this city than your peers at Emerson, and the students and officers manning the desks should not be the only watchmen.