Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2007.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

Demonstrable ineffectiveness

Posted 25 May 2007 in administration, firedoor, intruder, lockdown, northwestern-university, policy, security, and security-theater

As I've said for months, Northwestern's firedoor lockdown policy is ineffective and misguided. Today I received an email confirming it. Regarding this weekend's Dillo Day festivities, Mary Desler had this to say:

Please be aware that last night (May 24) a student in North Mid-Quads was awakened by a man standing in the doorway of her room and asking for a person by another name. There was a similar incident earlier this week in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house in which a man opened the door to a student's room, stated he had the wrong room and then left.

Let me be clear: I am sorry that strange men have been entering these young women's rooms, but I am glad that they were not harmed. I hope that the intruders are caught quickly and without further incident. These intrusions, however, are an issue of awareness and education, and it clearly demonstrates an important point:

Northwestern University's firedoor lockdown policy is nothing more than security theater. It has not in any way increased the actual security we have enjoyed over the past several years prior to the policy, neither has it particularly increased the perceived security we have felt. Instead, despite an overwhelmingly negative student response to the policy, despite widespread civil disobedience, despite infuriating inconvenience, and despite the policy's now-demonstrated ineffectiveness, Northwestern administrators continue to insist that it somehow increases student safety.

To their credit, the email continues:

Keep your room doors locked when you are sleeping, do not let strangers enter the residence halls when you enter or exit the halls, do not prop open any doors or windows, and call University Police immediately (9-1-1 or 4-5-6) if you see anything suspicious.

Education is absolutely the only, the only thing that can keep intruders from easily gaining access. Locking firedoors does absolutely nothing because students are just as likely to hold the main doors open as the firedoors.

Northwestern, please unlock the firedoors and begin a more effective campaign to stop intruders. Change how we think about security, not how we enter and leave our residences.