The University Record, July 1, 2002

New residence hall safety and security initiatives

By Alan Levy
University Housing Public Affairs

The Division of Student Affairs and Department of Public Safety (DPS) updated the Board of Regents June 20 on new measures being taken to enhance the safety and security of students living in on-campus residence halls. Concern on the part of the administration and regents about a series of thefts from student rooms and Peeping Tom incidents in women’s bathrooms during winter term led to increased scrutiny of existing security protocols, staffing and equipment.

During the May–August period, University Housing will install a limited number of video recording systems in halls with the most significant past history of thefts or peeping tom incidents, DPS Director William Bess told regents. Additional video recording systems will be installed at residence hall entry points and other areas with identified risk potential during the 2002–03 academic year.

Planning has begun for the installation of equipment in residence hall rooms and all restrooms with shower areas so that doors will automatically lock when closed. Installation is estimated to take up to two years for system-wide implementation, according to Bess. Estimated cost for the automatic door locks and video recording systems is approximately $2.7 million, which will be funded out of University Housing resources.

“Ensuring the highest degree of safety possible for our students living on campus is our most significant priority,” says Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs. “At the same time, we also want to offer residential communities that encourage high degrees of openness and interaction among residents and staff while promoting learning and academic success. I am confident that the steps we have taken so far and will be taking in the coming months will meet both objectives.”

In February, after several home invasion incidents, University Housing instituted 24-hour controlled access at all residence halls, which Bess says will continue. Expanded daytime Housing Security and DPS patrols of selected residence halls also were instituted in February and continued for the remainder of the winter term. Expanded security and police officer coverage of residence halls where additional visibility is determined to be very important will continue during the upcoming fall term on an as-needed basis.

Additionally, University Housing, Housing Security, the Office of New Student Programs which conducts new student orientation, and DPS have stepped up educational and awareness efforts directed at both undergraduate student–residents and their parents.

“The element we are stressing above all is to change student behavior,” Bess told the regents. “The crime prevention efforts conducted thus far did not have a substantial effect on behavior. A recent survey reveals that 95 percent of students feel ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ in their environment and, while we want them to feel secure, overconfidence can mean students aren’t being cautious.”

Bess notes that the equipment initiatives being pursued were selected after a review of best practices on other campuses as well as a detailed analysis of residence hall design and infrastructure at Michigan. The equipment selected “also incorporates assessments of available state-of-the-art security technologies demonstrated by current and new equipment manufacturers.”

Bess adds that “students have to do their part to make their living environment safe for themselves as well as the other students living around them” by observing posted safety precautions such as not propping open entrance doors or letting individuals they do not know enter their residence hall by “tailgating” behind them.