Students are having a door closed in their face

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 16, 2015

In 2012, Emerson College Police Chief Robert Smith told the Beacon he wanted to increase the college’s use of technology in its security procedures. This week, however, Smith said students’ access to Little Building’s Tremont Street doors over the past year was a computer error—one that went unnoticed for a year. If the department wants to properly use technology to secure our campus, mistakes that allow thousands of students improper access shouldn’t happen.

In 2014 the college dedicated a month to studying the effectiveness of a security technology intended to curb strangers from entering college facilities when the Tap and Go program was piloted. The system stuck— Emerson’s entryways were supposedly safeguarded by the addition of computers. Sealing the Tremont Street entrance due to a computer error makes the college’s effort for increased security technology seem empty and lacking. And does this alleged computer glitch not raise eyebrows about the security of all the other door access guarded by the system? 

If it’s true that a computer error, as Smith called it, is what has allowed thousands of students to file in from Tremont Street for a year, there is a significantly worse problem than an additional entrance to the Little Building. Whatever the cause, it’s shocking that the officers manning the ECPD office did not notice the increased student traffic through the door earlier. With the side doors now closed, ECPD — and the safe haven of the Little Building in general — will be less accessible for students in compromising situations late at night.

Student response to this change indicates that this decision is likely to create more risks for our student body instead of fewer. The crime log published in the Beacon’s Sept. 10 issue included four incidents of criminal activity affecting students while they were off campus but nearby. Street harassment and burglary are more common threats to our student body than campus intrusion. The more beneficial preventative measure would be to keep the side entry open — allowing for speedy entry into a safe environment if the student were to be in a dangerous situation. If, as Chief Smith says is the risk, an intruder were to follow a student into this side door, is the ECPD staff in the adjacent office not more than able to handle the security risk?

In that same Sept. 10 crime log, not even two weeks into the academic school year, two men unaffiliated with Emerson College were able to enter a building and had to be removed by Securitas. If this is something that still happens after the closure of one seemingly vulnerable entrance, the solution to preventing something like this doesn’t exist on our campus yet— but it can and should. We can use funding for security cameras, have campus police officers posted at building entries, install alarms that ring if a door is open for an unusually long period of time; all of these are alternatives that don’t involve closing a route to campus for students. 

Unfortunately, for many students, walking one extra block to get to the front doors does make a difference. It’s reasonable to be concerned about the extra time a person has to spend on the streets when the street could be pitch black and empty of other pedestrians. It is better to err on the side of caution rather than confront a story that wouldn’t have to be told if the Tremont door had been open. We are, after all, closing a door that is not just a direct pathway to safety, but a direct pathway to authority that is hired to protect us.