A time before checkpoints
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 01:03
There was a time at Lafayette when everyone—students, professors, even Eastonians—could walk into a residence hall without an electronic access key. It was not until the mid-to-late 1980s that the checkpoint system and the 54 blue lights were installed.
It was thanks to Public Safety Director Hugh Harris.
When Harris arrived at Lafayette in 1982, residence halls were unlocked. It was possible for anyone to enter them before midnight.
“[This] was a standard practice at that time in colleges of our type,” Harris said.
Harris and then Director of Residence Life James Krivoski co-sponsored a proposal that would allow for electronic access into dorms, which was supported and approved by the college.
The move reflected a trend occurring at college campuses around the country.
The installation of electronic access into academic buildings strengthened campus security. The goal was that checkpoints would be used as a “convenient thing” for people to have to get into their residence halls, Greek houses and academic buildings at different times, if necessary. Although checkpoints are in use on other campuses, some schools do not give students access to dorms other than their own. However, Harris believed that Lafayette was a “small enough community to allow for cross visitation.”
Harris called the checkpoint system a “beneficial enhancement [that] provided a secure environment for residents.” The system was not a response to high rates of intrusion or theft. Campus security simply needed to be “tightened up,” not overhauled.
Like the checkpoint system, the blue light system became a stable security feature at colleges in the 1980s. Even though other schools have blue lights, Lafayette’s have a unique keypad. At other schools, the light just had a button to call the police or Public Safety, Harris said.
“[We wanted] to make them more useful than just that [and put] convenience key pads,” Harris said. Students can call a local extension under the lights with the keypads. Because of the checkpoints, students could no longer visit their friends after hours, but by using the keypads, students could dial the extension of the phone in their friend’s room in order to get into the hall.
Even though Harris will be retiring at the end of the school year, he believes there will be future improvements in dorm security, most notably closed circuit TVs, which could be installed at the entrance doors of residence halls.