Every time on-campus residents enter a University of Nebraska-Lincoln dorm, they encounter one of the first safety measurements in place for campus housing — the NCard access system. Under this system, two pieces of plastic — an NCard and a room key — are partly responsible for student safety.
But NCards and room keys are just one part of the extensive security system in place to keep students safe.
Tony Rathgeber, the interim associate director of residence life, said in an email there are many other safety measures that are aimed at keeping residence halls secure.
Rathgeber said providing a safe living community in residence halls is of the utmost importance, and each semester begins with a floor meeting to promote safety. There are also community service officers who act as the first responders in residence halls and night clerks who work at the desks near main entrances to check in residents after midnight.
The UNL Police Department is confident in the NCard system’s ability to keep students safe. Hassan Ramzah, the assistant chief of police at UNL, said that along with the NCard system, community service officers play a large role in student safety. This includes serving as liaisons to students and resident hall staff.
Rathgeber said security features on the residence hall buildings themselves keep the building safe for residents. The exterior doors to residence halls are locked 24 hours a day and only allow access to students with a valid NCard that has been coded to recognize them as a resident. Within individual rooms, peepholes are attached to doors and windows are covered with screens.
Rathgeber said residents who have visitors in the hall must escort them at all times and visitors must sign in at the main desk. He said the violation of residence hall protocol may result in severe disciplinary sanctions based upon the specific incident.
Students who live in the residence halls must use their NCard to enter their hall. After midnight, there are checks in place where students entering residence halls must show their NCard to front desk employees located at all major entrances and exits in the building.
Senior biological sciences major Zach Kenyon is a former employee and supervisor for the suites complex, including Knoll Residential Center, University Suites and Eastside Suites.
He said dorm security tightens after midnight. The only doors students can enter through are the doors in front of desks, where their NCards are checked by a front desk employee. The locks only allow people who live in that specific residence hall to enter.
Kenyon said front desk workers only input a student’s NUID into a computer system to verify their residential status when they are with a group of people.
“If there was a group, that's when we would individually input their NUID into a system we have, and then we will verify where they live,” he said.
Kenyon said employees make sure the photo on the NCard matches the person who holds it.
At Ohio State, a similar system, called Buck IDs, is in place. Students must also swipe their Buck IDs to use the elevators in OSU residence halls.
Additionally, OSU’s University Housing utilizes feedback surveys to ensure students can indicate their feelings about their residence hall’s safety. In 2014, 97.1 percent of students living on campus reported feeling safe in their residence hall most or all of the time.
Penn State is another Big Ten school that utilizes different security techniques.
Penn State not only utilizes a card system, but also has an Access Control and Electronic Security team tasked with providing a “centralized and unified monitoring system for incidents and alarms,” according to its Undergraduate Housing safety webpage.
UNLPD and housing staff remain confident in UNL’s dorm safety procedures, teams and security measures.
“You can’t secure everything on campus, but we try to employ different mechanisms in places where the need is there to monitor, and we also try to have it not be intrusive to campus activity,” Ramzah said.
This article was originally published in the March/April special edition of The DN.