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Campus security and “tailgating” concerns

When passing through doorways, there is a certain distance at which it is acceptable to hold the door for individuals not far behind you, and one at which this is inappropriate. If someone is too far, it is awkward and often unnecessary to do this. If someone is too close, it is often rude not to. Students are told not to hold doors open for people passing through the dormitories, or let people “tailgate” into the residence halls.

But try as they might, it is often impossible to stop this from happening. What are you supposed to do if you leave a hall and someone you do not know is nearly at the door? If you have already left, and the door is closing behind you, is there any real socially acceptable way to tell strangers to wait until it is closed for them to swipe their cards? There is not. It will happen.

Campus security staffs individuals at front desks so residents will identify themselves as positively belonging to a specific building. As much as this is almost unequivocally a good thing, there are clearly no perfect systems, and I do not suspect reasonable people expect them. There are only so many hours security staff can deter would-be criminals from entering. They are people. They need to sleep. And when they do, unlawful entrances happen either because entering or exiting students cannot reasonably halt people from snagging closing doors, or otherwise. Most of these incidents involve visitors with no malicious intent. Some of them, unfortunately, result in robberies.

It cannot be said that campus security is lacking or insufficient when this happens. At least, this cannot be said if it occurs after working hours when traffic is low and the sun will soon rise. Security cannot be afforded constantly, and we cannot always be protected. At a certain point, the populace can simply not point fingers at those charged with the responsibility of keeping it generally safe, and the onus comes to the individual to make himself safe. Those robbed do not need to be considered at fault, to be regarded thoughtless. In the same way, those who give closing doors that one extra passing bump – even if only to be polite – are doing something equally negligent. This may not be a tactful way of framing the issue, but it is an honest one. Every single one of us has done this at some point or another, and nearly none of them result in any form of harm.

Indeed, this is a point that warrants a moment of closer examination. Barring a kind of optimism-pessimism dichotomy, a perfectly reasonable observation of human behaviors is that a fraction of people are ill-natured. Few people have been robbed on this campus relative to the number of those who have not. In a very real way, we are safe. Recent events need only serve as a reminder of something people, in general, already knew: there is a clear distinction between being cautious in a way where we inhibit healthy social functioning and one in which we prevent the comparatively rare from racking our comfort and wallets.

So keep your room doors locked at all times, whether you are sleeping or not. Even if you leave for a matter of seconds, lock your door and take your key with you. As a special word of advice to the freshmen reading this piece, have frank discussions with your roommates about doing exactly the same. There is no good reason not to.

Brian Benson is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at bbenson@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Campus security and “tailgating” concerns”
  1. vern says:

    Very well put Brian!

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