Red light: Access denied

While students weren't looking, the administration made a change to the residential hall access policy, banning off-campus students from any access to on-campus dorms. Administrators never asked for student input before instituting this policy change and did not inform them when the new policy became effective.

When making rules that affect students, it is a general principle to ask for student opinion before making the rule and then tell students about the rules before they are put into effect.

Student backlash is absolutely justifiable, since there is not a single valid argument in support of maintaining the new policy. Consider the two main arguments advanced by Fidelia Thomason, director of Housing Management, in favor of the restrictive policy.

The administration first argues that the policy is safer, preventing more people from accessing dorm rooms. In truth, the policy is less safe. Students who live offcampus, women in particular, must stand outside dorms waiting for somebody to let them in, exposing them to dangers, especially at night. Additionally, by seeking to decrease dorm access, administrators will actually increase it. Anybody can now believably claim to be an off-campus student and will be let into dorms by unsuspecting residents. Before the policy, only people who actually were affiliated with Duke could get into dorms, whereas now, absolutely anybody will be able to breach residential security.

Furthermore, by restricting off-campus student access, the administration makes the insulting assumption that off-campus students are more dangerous than on-campus students. The threat posed to a resident of Kilgo Quadrangle by a resident of the Belmont apartments is no different than that posed by an on-campus resident.

The administration's second argument is that by restricting access, it is helping to build community. Yet, how can restricting access and therefore restricting interaction between individuals build community? A community consists of people who have access to one another. But perhaps the administration thinks off-campus residents should not be part the Duke community. Should graduate students, faculty, administrators and employees, all of whom live off-campus, not be part of the Duke community? Of course not, the Duke community is broader than just students living on West, and that's what makes it so vibrant.

Another fallacious argument attacks the students choice to live off-campus, thus removing their right to be part of the community. Many students live off-campus because of the housing policy instituted last year that some students think inconvenienced many upper-class students out of West Campus. Moreover, off-campus housing can be both nicer and cheaper than on-campus dorms.

Perhaps the administration's real motivation in restricting card-access is to push the Duke social scene off-campus to a greater degree. If Duke's only goal is to reduce its liability, this is an understandable move, but if Duke cares at all about its students' safety or the quality of social life at the University, as it obviously should, then the new DukeCard policy is counterproductive.

Instead of forming policies about safety and community without communicating with students, the administration should ask students their opinion on the policy. Among administrators, this should not be a profound idea.


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