UMass to implement new electronic security sign-in system

By Marleigh Felsenstein

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts is taking steps to modernize security sign-ins in residence halls on campus.

A new electronic sign-in system for residents and guests is currently in place in all the freshman dorms on campus, with the exception of Kennedy Tower in Southwest Residential Area due to its size.

The system began in Poet’s Corner in Southwest during spring 2014. This includes Emerson Hall, James Hall, Melville Hall and Thoreau Hall. Since last semester, the system expanded to all freshman dorms, MacKimmie Hall, which is a sophomore residence, and Hamlin Hall in Northeast.

This new sign-in system, which is expected to be phased into all 51 residence halls by fall 2015, replaces the hand-written sign-in system.

UMass spokesperson Daniel Fitzgibbons said a pilot program was introduced last spring which utilized laptops in residence hall security.

The new system was implemented in order to make signing into dorms more efficient. “It counts better than a person could,” said Jim Meade, residence security director.

While Fitzgibbons said there are gaps in the new system – security monitors are often overburdened if many students are waiting at once – the University believes the benefits outweigh the negatives.

“It speeds things up a little for students. Paper is more bulky,” he said. “It is easier to keep records and dates by using technology. It can help with the screening for guests.”

The new security system is also expected to help enforce the guest limit rule. Each resident is allowed to sign in up to four guests per night, and a maximum of 10 people can be in a single room at once.

“Every time you host a guest, the guest monitor can see a reclining number of guests (on your limit),” Meade said. “It is much faster. Seventy-five percent of visitors are students visiting other students, it can record a guest visit.”
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” he added.

However, students living in dorms with the new system have varying opinions on how the new system works.

Palwinder Kaur, a freshman political science major who lives in Pierpont, said, “It’s new to me because I’m a freshman, so it’s fine. You just slide your card or your friend’s card if you’re signing somebody in.”

Lianna Hopkins, a freshman hospitality and tourism management major, also lives in Pierpont and agreed with Kaur. “It’s pretty simple, nothing has gone wrong with it yet for me.”

However, Elena Bassin, a freshman sports management major who lives in Cance Hall, disagreed.

“It makes a really long line when I want to go in sometimes, and it’s really hard because I wish I could just show them the security tag on my card and have them know that I live there,” she said. “One time, there was someone that was working the security system and she didn’t have the swipe out at all – no one had any idea what was going on.”

The system cost around $35,000 and has been in the works for a while.

Meade, who was involved in the process from start to finish, said the University considered systems provided by other vendors, but eventually decided to develop the system in-house to accommodate UMass’ “unique environment.”
For Homecoming weekend, security was round the clock in some dorms in Southwest. However, Fitzgibbons said this was not related to last spring’s “Blarney Blowout” or similar events. The new system was developed before “Blarney” occurred, according to Meade, and the trial began last January.

Fitzgibbons said the increased security over Homecoming weekend was because the University was “concerned with the number of guests coming in, because it was a big event weekend.”

UMass will continue to see how the system works, and evaluate any changes that will have to be made before it expands to the other residential halls.

“(People) need to get a feel for how it works,” Meade said. “I am glad we have it. It’s a lot faster and a great advance forward and a long time coming.”

Marleigh Felsenstein can be reached at [email protected]