Universal Swipe Access Not To Stay

Earlier this semester, many students living in on-campus dorms reported that they had been granted universal swipe access to all residence buildings to little fanfare. The Quest reached out to Gary Granger to investigate more into the behind-the-scenes reasons for this sudden change.

Universal swipe access reflects a compromise between limited-access security and the “high administrative burden of managing specific access plans for individual students,” says Gary. The beginning of the semester is often fraught with shuffling of students. This, combined with many members leaving Residence Life, impacted the college’s capacity to manage so many individual changes.

“This created significant inconvenience for residential students, many unlocks by CSOs (sometimes several times a day for an individual student), and frustrations for students and staff alike,” says Gary. “While the temporary universal access was not an ideal solution, it alleviated the immediate problem of students who had moved not being able to get into their residences.”

Universal swipe access is a temporary solution to these management issues. Once new staff are hired and trained in Residence Life, limited access will return. While there is no definite date, it is expected sometime before the fall semester concludes.

Despite the reservations about increased security risk with universal access, the possibility “of a student who already had residential access using broader access to act dishonorably was low,” continues Gary. Before, non-residents were frequently invited into other dorms or were simply let in fairly easily, which is especially true for larger dorms like Trillium, with students constantly entering and exiting. Universal access may have increased a theoretical risk in security, but solved the issue of students being unable to access their dorms. 

Unlike main campus buildings like the Library, ETC, Vollum, etc., that only required swipe access during COVID restrictions, limited dorm access was around before these restrictions. This limited access to dorms creates a sense of privacy for residents and are especially notable in cultivating the neighborhood design of the campus dorms. First years remain with other first year students, while second-year students and upperclassmen are grouped together.

While access to buildings with swipe is in question, so is requiring a swipe to enter a building in general. Some main campus buildings no longer require swipe access at all, while others like the PAB and science buildings continue to require it. This aligns with “pre-pandemic models” as Gary explains. “The Pandemic pushed everything into sort of ‘one size fits all’ model, but we are back to a much more local oversight. Our Librarian decided that more open access was appropriate, so we went with that, while the folks in the sciences are more comfortable with swipe access being the norm.”

The question of swipe access or no swipe access for academic buildings seems to be decided by the members of those particular departments, while residential building’s swipe access is guaranteed to be reduced to only those who reside in those buildings. Take advantage of universal swipe while you still can!

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