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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Residence halls, you’re on notice!”

    Jessica Wertzcolumnist
    Jessica Wertz
    columnist

    As a resident assistant, I can attest that the recent sexual assault in Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall has truly shaken up the Residence Life community. Furthermore, the massacre on the Virginia Tech campus, which started in a residence hall, woke the entire country up to the issues of residence hall safety on college campuses.

    Fair enough: UA Residence Life is taking several measures to make the halls safer as a result of these incidents. They are making all the halls card-access next year, which will allow more control of the entrances and exits. They are also installing cameras in all of the hall lobbies. But is this enough?

    I have seen my fair share of security breaches in my four years living on campus. Last year, in my residence hall, 10 laptops were stolen from residents’ rooms. One such theft occurred while a resident was asleep in her bed. An angry ex-boyfriend once got into the residence hall just to harass his old girlfriend. But the sexual assault was the last straw.

    To clarify, the majority of sexual assaults are acquaintance rapes. A student is more at risk of getting raped at a party than she is walking home alone at night. But it is still concerning to know that a stranger walked into a residence hall, hid in a restroom and waited to attack an innocent student.

    Even more concerning is that if we compare our residence hall safety measures to other Pacific 10 Conference schools, it is clear we are far behind.

    Encourage residents that safety really does begin with them. Letting someone into the residence hall is no longer appropriate.

    The majority of Pac-10 schools have 24/7 front desk service. The University of California, Los Angeles, has card access not only to the entrances but also to every room. Furthermore, they have alarms mounted in every entrance and exit that alert the front desk if there are any propped doors.

    The University of California, Berkeley, has “”Security Monitors”” stationed at the entrances of halls during the evening to check IDs. The University of Oregon has student patrols in every residence hall in addition to RAs on duty. Even Arizona State University has 24-hour desks at which guests must be signed in, and residents must show ID to enter the building.

    The propositioned security upgrades scheduled for next year here at the UA are a start, but we obviously need a more drastic change to catch up.

    First off, cameras will really do nothing but provide residents with another thing to vandalize. They are merely a reactive measure, as no college campus could afford someone to monitor the camera feeds 24/7. Furthermore, I have yet to see one crime occur in a lobby.

    The money being spent on these cameras should go into more reliable forms of security. Let’s put locks on all the bathrooms, seeing that the sexual assault occurred in one. Sure, sick residents may not have time to fumble for their keys, but I would rather deal with vomit than a rapist or a thief lurking in my bathroom.

    Let’s make all of our desks open 24 hours a day. If we limited the entrances so that one would have to walk by the lobby this would ensure that someone would be monitoring who entered the building at all times. Let’s install alarms on all entrances and exits such as currently seen in La Paz. Yes, they are extremely annoying, but they do ensure that no door is ever propped open. Let’s utilize UAPD and have them go on rounds with resident assistants during the weekends.

    Finally, let’s encourage residents that safety really does begin with them. Letting someone into the residence hall is no longer appropriate. Stricter punishments should be meted out to residents who do so. Maybe an early morning safety class would teach residents to think twice about holding the door open for people before asking if they are residents of that hall.

    I want to impart to Residence Life and future residents that safety must be improved. Maybe then, like the tried and true Girl Scout that I am, I will truly be able to leave Residence Life better than I found it.

    Jessica Wertz is a senior majoring in family studies and human development and psychology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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