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Editorial: Finding a balance in policy

Students’ friendly nature poses a safety problem

The New Hampshire

Published: Friday, December 6, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 03:12

We’ve written before about the sense of community that exists among University of New Hampshire students in Durham. For a fairly large university of nearly 15,000 students, UNH can feel much more intimate than those numbers indicate. This sense of intimacy and community breeds a sense of comfort for most students, which is by most measures positive, but what about when we become too comfortable in our community?

As this issue’s front page article indicates, students don’t seem to hesitate to allow others into their secure place of residence, holding or opening doors for almost anyone. Apparently we are a friendly, considerate, trusting student body. In most instances, these are valued and admirable traits. However in this situation, these qualities of trust and friendliness can become threatening to student safety.

The article posed a valid question: “But what is more important: student safety or the ability to lend a helping hand to a stranger?”

Students are faced with what should be a difficult situation: allow students to enter the dorm to be polite or close the door on strangers and appear rude. Most of the time though, this is an easy decision for UNH students; the majority are polite and hold the door for the unfamiliar face walking behind them.

In almost all instances, the stranger you are holding the door for is probably just entering your residence hall to visit a friend. Perhaps the visitor does not want to inconvenience his friend by asking him to leave the comfort of his room to come open the door for him. Or perhaps it is just good timing that someone is entering or exiting the building, holding the door open for a visitor to meet other students to work on a homework assignment.

What if the stranger walking in the door behind you is a fellow UNH student but is also an uninvited visitor to your building? This is not an assumption that all uninvited visitors are violent or destructive, but they could be potentially bothersome to other students. 

Part of what makes UNH such a remarkable community is the fact that students are so openly friendly and trusting. However, some skepticism is healthy. If the student lingering near the door does not look familiar, it should be acceptable to ask if he or she if a resident of the building. Even if they are not, they should not mind the question and your opposition to let a stranger into a residence hall. If this stranger is a campus resident, he or she should be able to understand this from the opposite perspective of not strangers in their own building.

The current policy put in place this year is not working to increase student safety; all that it seems to have increased is inconvenience. When the former policy was in place, students were at least able to enter others’ dorms during the daytime with their student IDs, a reasonably secure policy. However, this policy allowing students access only to their own dorms prohibits entrance, but apparently not in a productive way.

This policy sounds like a secure solution in theory but is not in practicality. UNH students are for the most part friendly students who are comfortable on campus. Housing should take these behaviors into consideration when designing a new policy; students should be able to find a balance in their residential safety and in politeness to fellow students.

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