ECPD to test new 24/7 building entry procedure


Photo: Evan Walsh

A new campus security proposal, which will require students, faculty, and staff to use their Emerson identification cards 24/7 to enter all buildings, will be tested for 28 days between March and April.  

The pilot program will begin on Monday, March 10 and end on Sunday, April 6, according to an email sent to the community on Tuesday from Robert Smith, chief of the Emerson College Police Department. During the trial period, Smith said he will request feedback from students, faculty, and staff on the program. At the end of the pilot run, a survey will distributed to all faculty, staff, and students, according to the email. 

In an interview with the Beacon, Smith said there will be ECPD officers outside the Walker Building to guide students to use the back elevators located at 10 Boylston Place. 

“We are installing a second card reader: one for the stairs, and the other for the elevators right as you go through the doors [of Walker], on the right hand side,” he said. “[Students] can tap and get in line for the elevators without a lot of cross-traffic.” 

Smith said after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, administrators felt a greater sense of urgency to scrutinize Emerson’s safety policies.

“We are right in the middle of the largest city in New England, so safety has always been our concern,” he said.

Sophomore Sarah Fox said she appreciates the sentiment, but doesn’t see it working out. 

“I think they are trying to keep the students as safe as they can,” the journalism major said. “I do understand because sometimes when you do go into buildings, people don’t always know who is a student and who is not. I think the tap-in [policy] is not going to necessarily work.”

The proposed policy is one in a series of new procedures to tighten security on campus, which include new guest sign-in measures and technology upgrades to building entryways, both of which Smith said will be implemented by March 10. 

College building entryways are also now wired differently, and can be locked down in seconds from a switch in ECPD’s office, Smith told the Beacon in September. 

According to Smith, the current policy states that for Ansin, Walker, Piano Row, Little Building, Tufte, and the Union Savings Bank Building, tapping in is only required before 7 a.m. and after 6:45 p.m. on weekdays, and all day on weekends. Paramount and the Office of Human Resources, which is located in The State Transportation Building, always require tapping in.

Smith said his team consulted four other area colleges — Suffolk University, Fisher College, Berklee College of Music, and Boston University — to compare security policies. He said he chose those schools because they are located in the same city as Emerson and, excluding BU, have similar student enrollment. 

According to Suffolk’s website, all of its buildings, both residential and academic, require tapping in 24/7.

“ECPD will prepare a report incorporating comments and observations received during the trial period and from the survey,” said Smith in the email. 

Smith said after the trial period is over, he will gather feedback and compile it for President M. Lee Pelton by April 26.

He said he does not see the policy being implemented right after he submits the results. 

“It would be up to the president. In the summer months, we do [24/7 tap in] anyway,” he said. 

Rosalia Fodera, a sophomore journalism major, said she doesn’t think a 24/7 tap-in system would be beneficial. 

“I think it will be extremely difficult for a building such as Walker,” she said. “It is going to create a lot of traffic and build-up, and people are going to get annoyed very easily.”

Smith said there are some setbacks to the pilot policy due to the age and design of Emerson’s academic buildings.

“Most of our buildings are 80 to 90 years old,” he said. “The entrances are narrow and the elevators are very small. During some of our peak periods, we will have 400 students going to a class at Ansin or Walker.” 

Smith said he believes if all students have their ID cards out and ready to tap, the pace of the foot traffic will not be affected.

“The key to this is as you approach the card reader, if you have your card in your hand you will tap it and keep going,” he said. “If you tap it and it makes a certain noise that means it has been rejected by the monitor. The security officer will ask you to come step in front of their desk and check it out.”

Smith said he is only looking for a month’s worth of cooperation on the part of the students and faculty.

“I’m hoping the entire community will give it a chance,” he said.