BY SAM DENLINGER AND GRACIE HELMS
The easiest way to get around Belmont University is with a smile.
But that is not always a good thing.
The Vision investigated how accessible Belmont buildings are after dark. The results: Staffers got into every building but two – including both men’s and women’s dorms, court rooms in the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center and fully-equipped medical labs in Gordon E. Inman Center.
The only two buildings secure were Freeman Hall and the Belmont Mansion.
While Mike Pruitt, assistant chief of Campus Security, was not surprised by the accessibility of the campus after hours, some students, however, were.
“That makes me really nervous,” said freshman business major Audrey Aavik. While she wanted the campus in general to be secure, her greatest concern was the safety of the residence halls.
“I feel like the dorms scare me more than the equipment,” she said.
Pruitt said there is no way to secure all the buildings on a college campus with classes taking place from early in the morning to late at night.
“It comes back to we’re doing our best to secure the buildings, but still give students access to where they need to be,” he said.
Two female Vision staffers were able to enter buildings between 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. by either trying doors or waiting for someone to open doors for them. Once inside buildings, the staffers had access to thousands of dollars of computer equipment, art, medical supplies and even student records. Staffers also entered unlocked offices.
“That’s bad. That’s scary; if you guys could get to our private student files,” said Laura Cato, a senior English major.
Jason Rogers, vice president for administration and university counsel, confirmed that each of the buildings entered were “authorized to be open” at the time staffers accessed them due to evening classes, special events and meetings. As for the offices, faculty and staff are responsible for securing their office when they are not there, he said.
Last semester, the administration tried to make certain buildings more secure, but faced backlash from students who wanted access to places to study.
Inman and McWhorter were supposed to be locked from 6:59 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.
“Once doors are locked only authorized students, faculty and staff will have access to interior secured areas by holding their BuID cards up to the card readers,” said an email sent to all students from Campus Security.
Vision Staffers entered both buildings after 7 p.m.
Female staffers were also not authorized to be in mens’ dorms.
To get into the dorms, staffers simply knocked on doors, smiled and entered or waited for a resident to enter and followed. Staffers walked past the front desk and entered the residences’ hallways where the men live. Some of the rooms had open doors.
“Nobody assumes that anyone at Belmont is bad,” said Belmont freshman Nathan Snitchler, who works at the desk at Pembroke and didn’t challenge the female intruders.
Buildings on campus are secured by either lock and key or by electronic key pass. Only those with a legitimate reason to be in certain buildings are given electronic access, said Renee Albracht, who also serves as an assistant chief of security on campus.
“We don’t ask students to be the big bully,” she said.
Ideally, students enter the key pass buildings one at a time after swiping their cards. They are encouraged not to keep the door open for others. But Albracht said there is no way to enforce going against good manners.
“If a person looks young I’ll obviously let them in and you can tell when someone is a mom, but if it’s some random grown man, then no, I probably wouldn’t let him in,” said Janna Cabello, a sophomore music business major. “I probably should be more cautious. It’s just never seems like a big deal.”
Students holding open doors and letting presumed strangers into the residence halls and academic buildings, while polite, is one of the larger security issues Belmont has to face.
“We don’t want to be that strict, but you don’t want to hold the door open for anybody,” she said.
“But what we do want is someone to pick up the phone and call security and say ‘you know there is someone on campus who isn’t really doing something wrong, but there is really something suspicious,’” she said.
“And if we have the chance to address the issue right away, it will save people eventually from being the victims of crime.”
Although vandalism and theft are not major issues on campus, according to the Campus Security Report, two men entered Pembroke Hall in October and stole from students in the overnight hours.
In another incident in November, a Belmont employee had her credit cards stolen after escorting a couple to another office.
During finals week in December, a man was chased out of Hail Hall by a resident assistant after stealing items from dorm rooms.
“Adrenaline was pumping from the moment I saw him,” said the Hail resident assistant Miranda Richardson, an international and music business major. “I just kept saying ‘You’re stealing from my residents, you’re stealing from my residents.’”
According to the Campus Security Report, theft on campus increased from 29 offenses in 2010 to 60 in 2011. The rates dropped slightly in 2012 to 43 incidents. Numbers for this year are not available yet.
Some students, like Cabello and Cato, see locking their doors as a hassle and would rather keep them unlocked.
“Generally Belmont students feel like it’s a safe place,” said Cato. “Even if there was somebody dangerous they wouldn’t dare walk on campus. I think everybody thinks it’s kind of like a bubble.”
Despite the openness of campus, students say they feel safe.
“Security,” said Mindy Fitterling, a music business major, “is the least of my worries.”Buildings that were entered:
Gabhart Center- Belmont Vision office with access to Mac equipment
Men’s Dorms-Pembroke Hall and Maddox Hall with access to Wright Hall through the Maddox and Wright breezeway, bedrooms, pool tables, bathrooms, storage closets
Female Dorms-doors left open to reveal personal computers, jewelry and other items of value, storage closets, bathrooms
Co-ed dorms- through the Patton Hall and Potter Hall tunnel, both dorms were accessible. Access to a female hallway in Patton through an unlocked double door.
Randall and Sadie Baskin Center- court rooms, office spaces, locker rooms, free use of the elevators, art work
McWhorter Hall- classrooms, electronics, art work, free access to elevators
Gordon E. Inman Center- nurse’s labs, medical equipment, medication, life-like dummies, classrooms, free access to the elevators, breezeway between Inman and the Massey Center.
Massey Center-studios, student records, classrooms, copy machines, kitchen appliances, signed paraphernalia
Fidelity Hall- offices, classrooms, artwork
MPAC- the auditorium and it’s equipment, practice rooms, lockers
Hitch Science Building and Wheeler Humanities Social Sciences Building- classrooms, electronics, offices, elevators
The Bell Tower- a piano, candle holders
Beaman Student Life Center- kitchen appliances, storage closets