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Install visitor check-in center at campus base

By Zach Phil Schwartz

Section: Opinions

October 7, 2016

South Street is a heavily used open-access road: the gateway from two interstates and places west of the City of Waltham. Scores of vehicles pass by campus going one way or the other on South Street on a regular basis, and any one of them can waltz right into Brandeis’ campus via the wide and open entrance, without any questions asked. Needless to say, although it makes the campus easily accessible and minimizes traffic stops, the open nature of the university’s main entrance is exceptionally dangerous.

Thanks to Brandeis’ somewhat secluded location on the outskirts of the city, alarmingly problematic trespassing issues are not as bad as they would be in, say, Cambridge, but the risk remains. Anyone with a car can enter Brandeis’ gates, or lack thereof, and stroll around doing whatever they want at their leisure. There is no way of knowing who strangers are or what they are doing here as they solitarily observe the Mandel building from within or without their vehicles.

If someone from the outside of campus decides to do the community harm, there is nothing but open access between them and all of Brandeis. This is not to say that there is an imminent threat or there is currently a substantial contemporary issue that warrants this discussion; but I want to know what the university is waiting for. Why leave open the opportunity when it is so simple to rectify? The university needs to install a security gate and booth complex between the entrance area and Loop Road.

Such an area would not be difficult to put together at all; the university has already invested in several gates scattered around campus, and a security booth would not have to be bigger than the booth sometimes occupied by police and at other times by BranVan dispatch. At a security booth a member of Public Safety will be able to check-in visitors and keep a record of who is on campus, allowing the university to be more knowledgeable and more accountable to the purpose and whereabouts of strangers here.

A security booth/visitor check-in center will also be able to allow for an increased Public Safety presence (or at least attention) to the most heavily traveled area on campus, where they can check for suspicious characters as well as intoxicated drivers with more ease, making the community safer.

Naysayers of such a proposition, which would not be much of a financial burden in construction, may point to an increased traffic burden on the entrance street and then a back-up on South Street. I will concede that the distance between Loop Road and South Street does not make the proposed visitor check-in center an appealing option, but there are ways to go about such problems without scrapping the idea. For example, the proposed center would probably not have to be open at all times; the idea is to keep campus safe from those who may wish to harm the community when people are not looking (read, asleep). Traffic onto campus at night is quiet and a visitor check-in center would make it easier for Public Safety to see who enters campus at late hours and why they’re doing it.

Another answer to the issue of traffic onto campus would be to put in a second entrance lane with a second gate, only accessible with a card swipe. This in place, members of the Brandeis community with campus cards (staff, students and faculty) would not have to worry about a manual check-in, and can access campus quickly and still enjoy the benefits of having campus just a little more protected.

This proposed visitor check-in center is not meant to keep the greater community off Brandeis’ campus; it is meant to keep our community safe. If a non-Brandeis driver checks-in to campus with a legitimate reason, by all means I don’t consider it a problem. I do consider it a problem that as of right now people who wish to do harm unto the community can drive onto our campus—into our community—and do what they please. To continue taking such a risk is unnecessary and unsafe.

Over the last two weeks I’ve had family come and visit me on campus. On the first week, my grandparents drove onto campus, picked me up and were gone within five minutes. Nobody knew who they were or what they were doing, yet they were able to grab their grandson and go without any record of them ever being there. I’m not trying to scrutinize the actions of my grandparents or any other Brandeis relative that operates in the same way; I’m trying to advocate for more barriers that would prevent (or at least identify) malicious individuals from grabbing someone and then bolting, or doing something bad and then bolting.

On the second week my father came to campus to pick me up. Same thing. He drove onto campus without so much as a question asked and then, when I had told him I would be a half-hour late, he roamed around Einstein’s and the SCC to waste time. Even he was perplexed that nobody had inquired as to what he was doing on campus or why he was roaming around a student center for that much time.

Again, I’m not trying to scrutinize the actions of my family as evidence of why a visitor check-in center would be a good idea (although I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of proving the former); I’m trying to say that it could’ve been someone else parked on campus and wandering around Einstein’s—someone with bad intentions. You can’t measure intentions at a check-in booth, but with it you can sure as hell note whoever enters campus at a check-in booth.

I propose that all members of the greater community (those without campus cards) who enter campus, including my grandparents and my father and the rest of my family, at least be on record saying when and why they’re here. A visitor check-in center would not take much to build (it could probably be done in a few weeks over the winter or summer recesses) and would be effective when it comes to keeping individuals with malicious intent off campus. Such a system is a deterrent; being on record as having entered campus space is a whole lot less appealing to such individuals than the current open-access system.

My proposal stresses the existence of those who wish to do the Brandeis community harm; I will here say that (at least I hope) there are not many of those kind of individuals out there. At the same time, what are we waiting for? Why wait to evaluate such individuals entering campus? It does nobody any good, and it only serves to hinder Brandeis from being as safe as it can be.

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