Operation Building Safe draws mixed reactions from students

Several buildings now use electronic access control locks and limit entrances after certain hours

· September 12, 2012, 12:12 am

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An effort to make campus buildings safer has drawn both positive and negative responses from students.

The Operation Building Safe program, a collaborative effort between the Division of Public Safety and University administrators, will limit entrances to buildings after certain hours.

A main goal of the program — which was launched in 2011 and remains ongoing — is to eventually secure perimeter access points for all Penn buildings with electronic access control locks, requiring students to swipe into buildings with their PennCards during business hours.

One or two locations in each building will be reserved for visitor entry, staffed by a concierge or security officer. Signs will be posted on all secured doors, directing visitors to those entries.

Though OBS is a relatively new initiative, certain buildings have served as prototypes for program. There are currently OBS security measures in Fagin Hall, College Hall, Huntsman Hall and the Graduate School of Education building.

The Wharton School has always been a “real player in securing their buildings for many years,” Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

As Huntsman is the only Wharton building open 24 hours a day, students must use a valid PennCard to enter through the Locust Walk entrance between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. They are required to swipe into the building at all times during weekends.

According to Senior Director of Wharton Operations Maria O’Callaghan-Cassidy, the safety measures in Huntsman, Steinberg-Dietrich Hall and Vance Hall have been successful.

“Wharton has an exemplary safety record especially after hours which in part is the direct result of our policies,” she said.

However, the swiping policy may also be a nuisance to some students.

“I live in the Radian and when I come from Walnut, it is sometimes a pain to walk all the way around to the front of the building,” Wharton junior Adam Goldberg said. “I am not too inconvenienced, but a couple more places to swipe in at night would be nice.”

Goldberg added that when he does eventually get to the main entrance, he sometimes has to wait in line outside Huntsman for ten to 15 minutes before he can swipe.

If the swiping in policy were to expand to other buildings, Goldberg would not see it as too much of a hassle.

“Other buildings don’t get much traffic anyway, so it would not present too much of a problem,” he said.

Although O’Callaghan-Cassidy has noted that lines do sometimes form, security officers “closely monitor these types of situations and can say that [they] have never found an individual wait to be more than one minute with the average being seconds per person.”

Others said the positive results of the Huntsman security policy outweigh the negatives.

“I think the few minutes you may waste in line to swipe your card is a small price to pay for the increased security that this measure provides,” Wharton senior Joao Mokdissi said in an email. “However, it would be very convenient if the Walnut entrance was also open at night and if there was a guard swiping us in there as well, reducing the lines in either entrance.”

Wharton sophomore Nashwa Elangbawy agrees. “Though it can be a hassle to wait in line to get swiped in, having to sign into the building ensures that it’s being used only by Penn kids, which is reassuring,” she said.

Fagin Hall instituted a similar policy in 2005 when renovations to the main entryway were completed. This main entrance is open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, and is closed on Sunday.

Fagin underwent further renovations that added 4,000 square feet of classroom space reserved for simulation this summer. Though the main entrance is guarded until 11 p.m., the main lobby door automatically locks after 6 p.m. and students must then swipe in.

“It was very important for us to secure these areas,” Nursing School Vice Dean of Administration and Finance Patrick Burke said.

Nursing junior Jess Geminder believes 6 p.m. is too early for the doors to lock. “I understand that there is a lot of expensive equipment in there, but it might be better if it was closed from 9 p.m. to 6 in the morning instead,” she said.

Geminder added, however, that the security policy makes sense especially because Fagin is not centrally located on campus.

Burke believes that students recognize that the building is secure. “I think people understand that in order to keep the building safe, you have to restrict access,” he said.

As for adding the same policies to buildings other than Fagin, Geminder said it’s a good idea only if the buildings were to close at a later hour. “Even though Fagin is far away, [the program] should not exempt other buildings on campus.”

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