Front desk receptionists are the eyes and the ears of residence halls, especially during the night.
This essential role is exactly why Central Michigan University doesn’t plan on replacing the position with an electronic key-swiping system – like Michigan State University announced it would be implementing earlier this month.
MSU has launched a pilot program in residence halls where students can enter any door at any time by simply swiping in.
CMU tried out a similar system in the Towers residence halls about 10 years ago, and according to Executive Director of Campus Life Shaun Holtgreive, it failed miserably.
“We actually made the place less safe that way,” Holtgreive said. “It was a disaster.”
After six months and a few reports of trespassing and assault, CMU called it quits on the swipe-in system, Holtgreive said.
These electronic access-control systems are still positioned in several locations on campus, though.
“The only place of student residence actively using the access control system from an outdoor perspective is the graduate housing building,” said Associative Director of Network Services and Information Technology Mark Strandskov.
Strandskov said the system costs roughly $2,500 per door for including hardware, wiring and labor.
The control system contains features that make accessing rooms on campus potentially more secure, by keeping a record of who accesses what doors at what specific time. Administrators can also choose to authorize only certain individuals to a specific area, according to Strandskov.
Strandskov also said it can function as an alarm system or allow for universal lockdown in cases of extreme emergencies.
While Holtgreive says he does see advantages to using the system on campus, he does not think they belong everywhere.
“We will use them in places that make sense,” Holtgreive said. “Technology is going to fail, and the last thing we want to do is give people a false sense of security.”
MSU reports two staffed locations, centralized in the student neighborhoods. To combat security concerns, more police officers will be on-duty and residence assistants will help patrol the neighborhood.
Ypsilanti senior Brittany Watts, a front desk receptionist at Fabiano Hall, said the system wouldn’t work at CMU.
“Our job is much more than just letting people in and out,” Watts said. “We have more duties than an electronic system can do.”
Detroit junior Leydiana Gittens works the front desk for Herrig Hall and said getting rid of the position would be a mistake.
“A lot of times, students don’t want to come to us,” Gittens said. “So part of our job is seeing potential issues in the halls.”
CMU has no plans to attempt using key swiping systems in undergraduate student housing again, according to Holtgreive.