Breach of safety speaks volumes

by Casey Dalager / Beacon Correspondent • February 4, 2016

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With all of these incidents right on its porch, Emerson should be making sure that its students are safe.
With all of these incidents right on its porch, Emerson should be making sure that its students are safe.

Emerson College is allegedly America’s number one college for journalism, we are one of the most LGBTQ friendly schools in the nation, and our visual and media arts program is comparable to New York University’s. Yet with all these high ratings, Emerson’s safety standards are lacking. The website College Factual, which provides statistics about universities, gives the college a security rating of F+. As a second year student, this grade is not very surprising. Without even mentioning the problems the school has with its sexual assault response, the security here is terrible—even shameful.

Emerson College lies at the heart of Boston, a major city in the United States; it’s reasonable to expect a fair amount of crime in the surrounding area. The Boston Common can be a hotbed for crime— the attack against two Boston Park Rangers in 2014 can be cited as an example. On Sept. 3 of last year, danger came much closer to home with a stabbing of two individuals taking place right on Mason Street, within sight of the Paramount Center loading dock. 

With all of these incidents right on its porch, Emerson should be making sure that its students are safe. On Oct. 10, 2012, a 32-year-old man was able to walk past both Securitas agents and enter the Little Building dorms. Once there, he traveled throughout the building for over five hours, according to multiple eye witness reports. He was eventually arrested without any harm done to students, and those responsible for the security breach were fired. There have been multiple upgrades added since this incident, but it simply proves that there is a very present danger here in downtown Boston.

For the most part, the new security improvements have given students an increased sense of safety, but we were made aware of some of the gaps still in Emerson’s system last Thursday. At around 5:40 p.m., the Emerson College Police Department spotted a man climbing up the scaffolding of Allen’s Alley—off Tremont, between the Cutler Majestic Theater and the Little Building—and proceed to enter the dorm through a third floor fire exit. This was all reported in a campus-wide email the next day.

The school has attempted to make the campus safer, but its efforts have not been enough. A number of tap locks have been installed on all of the campus buildings, but even these devices are flawed. A concerned student first reported the deficiencies of the Colonial door lock on Jan. 17. He wrote in the dorm’s Facebook group that when tapping in, the building’s front door unlocked and relocked so quickly that it was impossible to open without assistance. A dozen other students seconded this issue, many of them also citing extreme rudeness from the Securitas agents, who apparently urged against opening the door for other residents. Agents should instead be offering help in these cases, or at least be informed and aware when technology is on the fritz.

I personally have experienced issues getting into two separate buildings after 11:00 p.m. Once, I returned to Piano Row at four in the morning. Like everyone else, I was having trouble trying to unlock the door—stone cold sober—when a stranger approached me and asked me if I couldn’t get in. Luckily, I was able to enter the building before he reached me, but the problem remains. In fact, at the time of publishing, over 15 days after first notifying the school, the lock still has not been fixed, despite multiple complaints to facilities. 

While Emerson College has trouble keeping strangers out, they are excellent at stopping students from getting in. One of the biggest changes that needs to be made is the simplest: The locks have to be addressed. After that, the campus simply needs a larger security presence. We certainly don’t need ECPD officers on every floor, but as students, we can help by reporting suspicious behavior from not only strangers but also our peers. To do this, students need to be educated about where they should share these reports in order to have the most impact; be it ECPD, Securitas, or the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

With the aforementioned danger present in the city of Boston, especially after 11:00 p.m., it is critical that students are able to have a safe place to go if they feel threatened elsewhere. Yet it seems that this is not possible at present. The current security problems are putting every Emerson student in danger, not only of intruders in the buildings, but also of being locked outside at night. Emerson College must make an effort to repair and maintain the electronic door locks immediately to assure safety, and Securitas officers need to be trained to assist students having issues instead of berating them. 

Emerson has the necessary resources to put all of this in place, but nothing will be done unless students come together and bring these issues before the school.