Norwich enforces new door-locking policy for all students

Cadet Gabriella Katz locks her door following new policy instituted at Norwich this year.

Cadet Gabriella Katz locks her door following new policy instituted at Norwich this year.

Starting this fall, Norwich University has implemented a new residential student policy requiring all students to lock their doors when their dorm room is unoccupied or when its occupants are asleep.

This is the first time in Norwich’s history that such a policy has been made demanding students to lock their dorm rooms. “It’s a safety concern. Does theft happen often? No.” said Maj. Kristine Seipel, NU housing officer and adjutant. “But in a small campus the impact is greater. We want everyone to be safe and not have to go through the trouble.”

This new policy applies to cadets and civilians, who will each be checked by their separate chains of command. “Assistant Commandants, and perhaps even I, can walk in the buildings and check,” Seipel said.

“This is the same dollar amount that NU security will charge [to open a dorm room] if a student loses their key,” Seipel said. She says that the $10 fine is a fair amount and students can always appeal directly to the official who issued the fine.

While Seipel is unsure how the discussion behind the new policy came up, she did vote for what she felt was an “obvious” decision. “I was not in the meeting when this was brought up, but I was given a voting power and I thought it was obvious that students should lock their doors,” Seipel said.

According to Seipel, many other faculty members agree that it is obvious that students should lock their rooms. “Things happen. People do some stupid stuff and it doesn¹t matter if you are a rook, upperclassmen, male or female. You want to protect yourself,” she said.

However, some students feel differently about the policy. “I think it’s an unnecessary policy, that someone should go around and check if a door is locked or not,” said Oliver Czuma, 20, a junior communications major from Chicago, Ill. “Each person has their [sense of] responsibility, so they can lock their doors if they want to. If they choose not to, it’s their problem.”

At NU, it is commonplace for students to leave their doors unlocked and to rely upon the university’s honor code, which prohibits lying or stealing, to prevent theft. Czuma says that he often left his door unlocked during his sophomore year and never had a problem with theft. In fact, for some like Czuma, the door locking policy leaves room to question the administration’s belief in the NU Honor Code. “We also have an honor code so this shows how the school does not believe in the honor code.”

Norwich, along with many military colleges, has an honor code which states that a cadet will not “lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” Any breach of the code results in serious disciplinary action as decided by the corps and civilian honor committees.

“I got mail during this summer regarding changes of policies,” said Philip Slack, a 20-year-old junior criminal justice major from Albrightsville, Penn., who also says that left his room unlocked in his sophomore year.

Seipel addressed this student perspective on the policy in saying that “a lot of people will argue that we have an honor code. Do we believe in the honor code? Yes. However, there are people who are not very honorable. It’s for security.”

To illustrate her point, Seipel recalls theft cases in years past. “We had gaming consoles stolen and someone’s rings were stolen a few years ago,” she said, adding that the student in question always had his door unlocked and a fellow cadet stole his ring box.

“We have people looking to see if anyone is pawning our rings. It’s a distinctive ring,” Seipel said in connection to the case of the stolen rings. “We got a report saying that someone was pawning them.”

In the case of the stolen rings, the crime was investigated and resolved appropriately. “Fortunately the insurance company covered for the loss and the ring was returned. The thief had to face legal consequences,” Seipel said. “This is the reality and we don’t want our students to have bad experiences.” Not all of the stolen items are recovered and nor are all thieves brought to justice as in this case.

Another argument against the policy is that the students are being made to pay for their choice to leave their rooms unlocked. “I think it’s a misguided rule and perhaps another way of school trying to make money or make students pay,” said Zachary Harrington, 21, computer science major from Heidelberg, Germany.

Harrington says that he left his door unlocked for convenience. “I guess there are thefts, but I still left my door unlocked when I went to classes.”

“I don’t think the school is looking out for our safety. It’s for school’s safety,” Czuma said, emphasizing the need for better security of the buildings as from outsiders as opposed to security of individual rooms from other dorm occupants. “If they really cared about safety, our buildings would have card readers. What’s stopping people from stealing if they really wanted to?”

“I believe thieves will always find a way,” said Akinori Kumagai, 19, a freshman in international studies major from Tokyo, Japan. “People are sneaky. If they put their mind to it, they can do anything to steal something.”

“There must be pro’s and con’s, but fining people for not locking their doors seems very wrong,” Kumagai said, referring to the US Constitution as the basis for his argument. “I think this is almost unconstitutional. You can’t fine people for not locking their doors. It’s their choice and the United States is about freedom of choices.”

As the son of a diplomat, Kumagai has lived in various places across the globe and compares his experiences to that of living at NU under the new policy in question. “I lived in Japan, South Korea, United States, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, China and several other countries. I went to boarding schools and never had any rules saying that I had to lock my doors,” Kumagai said. “It was our freedom of choice. Whether you lock it or not, it was your responsibility.”

Despite some students’ negative feedback, the new door policy remains in effect for residential students with the intention of making the campus a safer and more secure place to live and learn.

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