The 16 academic cottages containing mostly faculty offices and seminar rooms will be locked on weekends. This is a departure from last year, when the buildings were kept open for students to study in all week.
At the beginning of the year, Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman and Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper agreed that there is an inherent security risk to having these cottages open on weekends.
“During the week, there’s people in and out of those buildings,” Kohlman said. “There’s classes at night, there’s classes during the day, people are in their offices. On the weekends, that doesn’t exist.”
Hooper agreed that the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to safety. “It isn’t taking any study space away, so we just thought it was the right thing to do for everybody’s safety,” he said.
Nate Grosh ’19, chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said the decision has created some pushback among students who have resorted to those spaces when Ascension and the library modules are packed on weekends. “Even if there’s only 40 people who would study in those buildings … that’s 40 people that now need to find some other place,” Grosh said.
Since Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library is gone and the village study spaces are still a work in progress, students are acutely aware of the deficit in study space. “My understanding is right now we’re feeling the pinch,” said Vice President of Library and Information Services Ronald Griggs.
Griggs said the cottages account for around 107 seats that are now unavailable on weekends. At the same time, he noted that Campus Safety first and foremost has an obligation to protect the students’ safety. “Although we feel like we’re isolated, we’re not so isolated as you’d think, and there are always reports of strangers on campus,” he said.
One solution to this deficit is to install K-card readers, like the ones on the buildings in the Science Quad, on the academic houses, so that they can remain open without the concern of letting in people unaffiliated with the College.
“We are going through the process right now of prioritizing the next round of card access in more buildings,” Kohlman said. “So eventually we’ll work our way across campus.”
Kohlman added that card access was built into Keithley House and that Lentz House is the next priority for K-card access installation. Both buildings house two seminar rooms.
There are a couple of obstacles to installing K-card access on the academic houses, mostly due to financial and accessibility issues stemming from their old age.
“Individual houses are expensive because each house has to have the whole system, controller, door, hardware,” Kohlman said. “And a lot of these old houses, the doors … don’t work with the hardware, so they have to replace the whole door.”
Griggs noted that the installation also has to integrate accessibility, which is a challenge for the older academic houses, many of which are inaccessible. “Eventually, I’m sure all College buildings will have that in the long-run, but it costs money, it takes time, and you have to work it in one building at a time,” he said.
Hooper focused on the importance of ensuring that students are safe in every corner of campus.
“Right now, even with an active threat scenario, we can get everything locked down that’s on the system, but there would be no way for us during an active threat to get around and get everything else locked,” Hooper said. “So we really want to get everything on our access system, where at [a] moment’s notice our buildings are secure.”