Tulane Police, Housing staff assess security measures after series of robberies

A+student+uses+her+splash+card+to+enter+a+dorm+room+in+Greenbaum+Hall.%C2%A0

A student uses her splash card to enter a dorm room in Greenbaum Hall. 

Paige Pielet, Contributing Reporter

Housing security is typically regarded as an essential, if not given, component of college residential life. Tulane has recently had to take a deeper look behind the causes of recent security incidents and actively design or change safety measures for the future.

On Sept. 19, a Tulane student reported a simple robbery outside Sharp Hall, on Sept. 20, a resident of Josephine-Louise House awoke to a man going through her roommate’s property and on Oct. 10, there was an armed robbery in the Lavin-Bernick Center. This series of incidents has sparked concerns about campus safety among the Tulane community.

Personal safety concerns have pervaded campus as students have had to think twice about the security of supposed safe spaces such as campus walkways and dorm rooms.

Freshman Liza Smith, a resident of Josephine-Louise House, said that the intruder in her building has caused her to think twice about how safe she really is in her own dorm building.

“I always felt really safe on campus, but having a break-in so close to home definitely changed things a bit,” Smith said. “Like we now think about locking our door when we go to bed, which we never did.”

Students and community members have voiced their concern through emails to administration and the recent town hall meeting sponsored by the USG Safety Committee.

“I’m hoping for better front desk security and better enforcement of the swiping policies,” freshman Melissa Liberson said. 

Tulane University Police Department Superintendent Jon Barnwell agreed that active new security measures need to be taken.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a recent spike in activity on campus,” Barnwell said. “I think it’s safe to say in light of the recent events, we are working with Tulane administration to look at additional uses of [closed circuit television] and our emergency blue light telephones.”

Barnwell also emphasized increased security at entry and exit points of residence halls. This includes cameras and increased emphasis on tapping in yourself and guests.

A Desk Services Coordinator anonymously confirmed that since the break-ins, they have been more strict about swiping, “even with things like buzzing people in when they forget their Splash Card.”

Brian Johnson, assistant vice president for Housing and Residential Life and Campus Recreation, confirmed that there has been a training meeting for DSCs since the break-ins to make sure that their employees are following procedure.

In Josephine-Louise House, prior to the incidents, if you did not know the process for tapping in guests correctly, it was generally overlooked. Now it is expected that community members know the procedure.

The Department of Housing and Residence Life at Tulane is looking into making the system more user-friendly, as some still do not fully understand how to tap in guests. In Barbara Greenbaum House, tapping in has always been strictly adhered to, so there were fewer changes in enforcing procedure.

While the residence halls have CCTV security cameras on the outside of residence halls, some halls lack cameras inside and at emergency exits.

“Our school has a one billion [dollar] endowment and we can’t afford to put in security cameras?” Smith said.

“We have some cameras they were going to repurpose so that we can make sure all of our front entryways are covered and critical rear entries as well,” Johnson said. He said that even before the break-ins, in August, they were looking at plans to repurpose the cameras, but that it is a time-consuming process.

“I don’t want cameras in hallways and I don’t want them in common rooms because I believe our students deserve to have an environment where they can be students and frankly, none of our problems are being generated out of hallways and common rooms,” Johnson said. “Our problems are people who don’t live in the residence halls getting in, students not following our guest policies.”

Another security issue is the locks not working in Greenbaum. Though a common misconception seems to be that it is because they are WiFi-connected, HRL believes it is because the software and hardware used are not compatible. They are currently testing out Persona software to go with the Persona hardware on some locks to see if performance improves.

While HRL is looking for a fix, residents of Greenbaum have been unable to lock, or sometimes unlock, their doors. Freshman Mary Penckofer said her door no longer locks.

“The locks just stop working, and the keypad flashes red and the door just doesn’t lock anymore,” Penckofer said.

Greenbaum resident freshman Laura Bartusiak had the opposite problem of being locked out.

“I’ve re-coded my door five times, twice in one week,” Bartusiak sais. “I’ve had to get a new Splash Card, I had a temp card for a week and there was a time when my lock wasn’t working because it was coded for a door on the second floor when I live on the sixth.”

Barnwell and Johnson confirmed that there have been no thefts due to the lock issue.