Open letter to the Trinity Administration about new locks

ANDREW FISHMAN ’16
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
To: President Berger-Sweeney, Dean Card, Dean DiChristina, Ms. Aber
We at the Fred Pfeil Community Project received the email from Susan Salisbury about the replacement of locks scheduled to occur in the Summit Suites over winter break. We believe, for a number of reasons, that this plan—especially the placement of electronic keycard locks on individual bedrooms in suites—will negatively impact the campus community, and is against the sense of community we foster within our building. Our aim as an organization is, according to our constitution, to “create a community based on intellectual curiosity, mutual respect, and democratic participation,” and to do so, we seek “to promote the values of equality, open-mindedness, and inclusiveness to the entire Trinity community.” Though we object to the keycard system as a whole, we recognize that the locks on campus are old and need to be replaced, and we recognize that as inconvenient as the new system of keycard locks is, this is unfortunately the system the school has chosen.
Our main contention is not the lock system as a whole: it is the placement of these keycard locks on individual bedrooms within suites. These bedrooms are not currently fitted with such locks. It was explained to us that this plan is to be implemented across campus, and much of campus has been retrofitted. The inconvenience is self-evident. We would instead like to focus on a much deeper problem with this plan—the placement of a lock has the physical effect of restraining free movement, and simultaneously states that we should not trust our peers.
Placing keycard locks on our internal bedroom doors requires that, even when we are in our own space, we physically carry our IDs. The alternative is to always remember to prop open our doors, or (as many freshmen in quads apparently did last year) to tape over the door latch, which seems to defeat the purpose of installing a lock at all. Regardless, whenever we walk through our own rooms, we must make a conscious act to remember the lock on the bedroom door. It is a present physical restraint of free movement within our own spaces.
This placement of locks on bedroom doors within suites is also a statement by the college that we should no trust our roommates. Outside of college, we choose to lock our doors when we perceive a threat. To place keycard locks on bedrooms within suites is to say to students, “you cannot trust the people you live with.” This is especially true given that we already have locks on our bedrooms. They are small, and when we choose to lock them ourselves, they adequately serve the job of saying, “don’t come in right now.” We do not need locks in our own spaces that say more than this, that imply the presence of hostility. To have such locks would be detrimental to the campus community.
We would also like to address the main point made in defense of this plan when some of us inquired as to its rationale, namely, that some students—especially those placed in their rooms to fill a vacancy and so did not get to choose their roommates—feel safer and more secure with such locks on their doors. If it is true that students do not feel safe and secure in these situations, there is a far deeper problem that should be dealt with by Residential Life. Nearly no first years know their roommates, and until last year there were no internal locks in these rooms. To our knowledge, there were very few problems. If any students truly feel unsafe—to the point that they would desire a keycard lock on their door—their rooming situation should be changed.
More important than our mission, however, is that as a campus we are presently in the midst of the Campaign for Community. We see this placement of locks as not only incongruous with our mission as an organization, but incongruous with the spirit of the Campaign for Community. Small, pernicious things in campus life—such as these locks—reinforce tendencies away from a strong, inclusive sense of community that underpins many of the goals set forth in the Campaign. As a community, we reject the message this implementation of locks sends. Many of us in the Fred are involved in the Campaign and in the Nests, or were involved in the Mentoring Network Design Challenge which preceded them, along with a host of other initiatives in the past few years. We hope very deeply that these initiatives succeed and create the campus community towards which we all have been working. The installation of these locks in suite bedrooms is antithetical to such a goal.
We encourage other students and groups who feel similarly to voice their concern.
Sincerely,
The Fred Pfeil Community Project

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