Parrish residential halls receive extra locks, new layer of security

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Parrish residential areas are now locked to provide an extra layer of security to the dorm’s residents. According to Housing Coordinator Liz Derickson ’02, the need for the locks became clear after multiple incidents of strangers on the hall last semester, including one where an unidentified male intruder grabbed a female student in the bathroom, and the delay “was in part just about figuring out the logistics of the hardware.”

The doors in the center of Parrish by the elevators that were part of the renovation were easy to install locks on, “but for the older doors on the staircases we had to special-order hardware.” The locks can be opened only by the dorm’s residents, but the doors by the elevators also have a keypad that can be opened with a numerical combination.

This decision was made in large part because there is one room on each of Parrish’s four halls that is outside of the locked door. For these students, Derickson explained, “we wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to take their key on the way to the bathroom… we also wanted residents to be able to move between halls, and the push pad seemed like an elegant way to do that.” Parrish residents can also give the number out to friends who might want to visit them. The keypad is also convenient for members of organizations that meet on the top floor of Parrish, who use the residential bathrooms.

The rooms outside of the locked space were originally triples or quads, with a double on the outside linked to a single or a double within the locked space. If there continue to be security concerns from those residents, “we might link those spaces as blocks next year so that residents could use the door on the inside as their main exit.”

Ethel Reines ’09, who currently lives in one of the affected doubles, wasn’t concerned. “I think the new locks in Parrish are fine where they are,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The only time I really felt vulnerable was in the bathrooms, but now that’s taken care of.”

Although Parrish was generally agreed to be the most insecure dorm before the locks were installed, none of the Swarthmore dorms are truly secure. All over campus, students continue to prop doors open so that their friends can have easy access to their dorm, which is a serious security concern for the Housing Office. Could the locks be replaced by a universal card access system, which would allow any student with a card to enter any dorm?

Derickson said that “although there’s a lot of momentum towards a card access system, sometimes there’s a value in limits to accessibility.” As an extreme example, she said, “if a student had been sexually assaulted by somebody living in another dorm, they’d feel safer knowing that their assailant did not have access to their dorm.” Another concern is that when a student loses a key now, anybody who found the key would only have access to one dorm, but “losing a universal access key is a much more serious security problem.”

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