Students vote against restricted card access

More than three quarters of the student body cast virtual ballots in a College Council referendum held this Monday and Tuesday to determine whether residents would be allowed to restrict card access on a dorm-by-dorm basis. When the polls closed at midnight on Tuesday, 13 percent of students had voted in favor of allowing residents to vote to restrict access and 87 percent had voted against. A total of 1553 students participated in the referendum.

Discussion on campus had indicated that most students were opposed to restricting card access and were voting against allowing residents to restrict card access. It has been and will continue to be the policy that all students have access to all dorms, except co-ops, via card swipe.

CC was not the first body on campus to broach the possibility of dorm lockdowns. After collaborating with Neighborhood Governance Boards (NGB) in October, Campus Life had planned to give students the option of restricting card access to their individual dorms by means of individual house referendums last week. However, CC put those plans on hold during a meeting between its leaders and Doug Schiazza, director of Campus Life, last Monday morning. As president of Dodd Neighborhood and CC treasurer Peter Nurnberg ’09 told the Record last week, the NGB leaders had not expected to see a referendum put in place as swiftly as it was and without further student consultation. Along with CC co-president Morgan Goodwin ’08, Nurnberg arranged the implementation of the referendum that was held this week.

Students voted in the referendum online, using BigPulse, and answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question, “Should dorms be allowed to vote to restrict card access from other students?”

For most of the members of CC, the answer was no. In its all-campus e-mail last week, CC voiced its opinion. “College Council is generally opposed to restrictions on dorm access,” said CC co-president Morgan Goodwin ’08 for CC. “We feel the unique identity of Williams as a community would be limited and recent events do not require a significant change in how students move about campus.”

Plenty of students were in agreement with CC. They said they enjoyed the convenience of being able to access all dorms when they were visiting friends and when someone was stuck outside without an ID card. They said they saw universal card access as a distinct characteristic of the College that they wanted to uphold.

“I don’t like the idea of restricting access,” said Caroline Ng ’11. “I like how at Williams we have the freedom of going into other dorms. It makes it feel more friendly and more like a small community.”

“[Universal card access] is one of the aspects that most impressed me of Williams when I got here,” said Diego Ontaneda ’11, who started a Facebook group called “Ephs against Restricted Access.” “You just don’t find this anywhere. [Unrestricted access] says that we acknowledge this community as being a unique one, of unique people, where we can trust fellow Ephs even if we don’t know each other.”

Students also explained that they did not see limiting card access as an appropriate response to the recent wave of bio-cleanups on campus.

“I don’t know if restricting card access would fix any of the problems the College has been having,” said Matthew McClure ’08.

Still, many students felt that their peers should at least have the ability to restrict access if they wish, noting that some may feel the need to protect their houses from unwelcome guests. “I don’t know of anybody who wants restricted card access, but I don’t live in a dorm where there’s been a bio-cleanup and I think it’s fair to give those students [who do] a say,” said Lindsay Rosshirt ’09.

Others found fault with the way the issue and the referendum were handled. Instead of participating in a house-by-house referendum on an issue, students were asked to vote on whether or not those referendums should be allowed to take place. “I think it’s unnecessary and useless to have a vote to vote. We should just be voting on whether we want to restrict card access,” Emily Siegel ’08 said.

The phrasing of the question in the referendum confused a number of students, many of whom had been discussing personally whether and how to restrict card access, not whether a dorm in general should be allowed to restrict it. “If you look at the question, it’s completely ambiguous. I don’t know what I’m voting for,” Daniella Johnson ’08 said. “I don’t think card access should be restricted, but the wording of the question was confusing,” McClure said. “I didn’t know whether I was voting for the right thing.”

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