Widgets Magazine

ID scanners, alarms to be installed in Row houses

Starting next quarter, residents of the Row will begin using ID card readers instead of house keys to unlock their front doors. Installation of locks and alarm systems will begin in September and is expected to continue into the academic year.

Once card readers are installed at Row houses, residents will enter houses with their Stanford IDs instead of keys. According to Rodger Whitney, executive director of Student Housing, participants in courses held at Row houses, eating associates and other authorized visitors can be programmed into the system for meals or classes without checking out another key or having a resident open the door.

“The [building access system] allows a great deal of flexibility in terms of access for residents and guests,” Whitney told The Daily in an email.

Alarms and scanners will be installed as part of a University-wide security upgrade. (LORENA RINCON-CRUZ/The Stanford Daily)

Row houses don’t appear convinced, and the project has garnered many complaints from students living on the Row. Less than a day after the news was sent to the more than 300 co-op residents of the Row, students were already writing back to Co-op Living Peer Advisor Steven Crane ’11 with strong opinions about the project.

“One student thought this might be a good thing,” but the rest of the student email reactions “ranged from the concerned to the adamantly opposed to the profanely enraged,” Crane said.

The decision to update house entry on the Row is part of a much larger, University-wide plan to reform building access. The project proposes that all residential and academic facilities will have alarm systems installed. Discussion of the project began in 2006, and Student Housing is currently in the process of adding card readers to all undergraduate residences.

According to the initial proposal, updating the Row’s security was slated for later in the multi-year, University-wide project. However, following an analysis of public safety that showed the majority of campus thefts and break-ins occurred on the Row, plans there were prioritized. Row houses are located on the outskirts of campus and often have fire escapes that allow easy entry. Implementing alarm systems to monitor building access is intended to help prevent theft, break-ins and unwelcome visitors.

“The use of door alarms has enabled a higher security level for residents,” Whitney said. “Doors are no longer accidentally or intentionally left open, which means that individuals who do not belong in a residence are precluded or have a much harder time gaining access.”

While many students thought that alarm systems will give Row houses an impersonal feel, the main source of student discontent is not the implementation of door alarms but the lack of student input in the decision, according to Crane.

“[Housing] make[s] [their decisions] in their own best interests, and the interests of the students that are impacted by this policy are an afterthought, an aspect of implementation,” Crane said. “We are not asked about these things from the start.”

However, according to Whitney, Student Housing has made sure to communicate with students living in residences that have previously undergone the implementation of card readers.

“Students have played a major role in all of Student Housing’s card access projects since the beginning,” he said. “Resident fellows and students have been surveyed as part of the decision-making and implementation processes. We have also maintained communication with the residents of each house as the installations have progressed.”

Both Whitney and Crane agree that a thorough discussion should take place during the implementation of the program on the Row.

“It is my understanding, and hope, that decisions that affect the daily life of thousands of students [are] ones that [happen] with transparency, with explanation and with copious student input,” Crane said.


  • James

    So what’s gonna happen when row houses have parties? Constant blaring alarms? Stanford continues to strip away anything that adds texture to the residential experience…

  • A name

    I think Roger Whitney is missing the point of “feedback” in his statements. I have no doubt that Housing actually wants feedback on its projects. However, the problem with this project, like many others, is that Housing didn’t work with students to create a solution to a real, existing problem (break ins and theft); Housing picked a solution and only then asks for feedback — I only received surveys ABOUT alarmed doors, not how to best address issues of crime on the row. This is frustrating to me as an individual because I see alarmed doors as a solution in search of a problem — my perception is that many row break-ins, theft, and sexual assaults take place during parties and other open-house events, when large number of strangers are in the house and locked alarmed doors do nothing to prevent crime.

    And some of Whitney’s other statements are just absurd without more substantiation: “The [building access system] allows a great deal of flexibility in terms of access for residents and guests”. This kind of rhetoric is patronizing at best. It’s pure BS unless row house staff have some power over granting access to buildings.

  • anonymous

    Seriously, we’re on the quarter system not semesters…

  • #youshouldreadthiscomment

    do you go to stanford? mistake on line 1.  we are on the quarter system, maybe you have’t noticed

  • a student

    Couldn’t make it past the first line: “Starting next semester…” I don’t understand how the author could make that mistake. We’re on the quarter system. 

  • don’t track

    don’t these cards track your every move?

  • Who cares?

    How do you propose we stop break-ins, thefts, and sexual assaults during parties? Security guards in every room? There is no easy solution to these problems, but if securing doors isn’t a step in the right direction, then what is?

  • Poop

    Jesus, this argument is totally overblown. ID scanners are easy, cost-effective, secure, and undeniably reasonable going into the future. Did you really expect Stanford houses to still be using metal keys 10 years? Yes, housing should make sure to inform and communicate this change. But honestly, chill out.

  • Steven Michael Crane

    To see dozens of co-op student responses to this news, you can see the letter addressed to Housing administrators here: http://bit.ly/NsniLf

  • Ca72000

    I don’t think people have a problem with the ID scanners.  It is the inability to leave doors open that makes us feel out of control of our own situation.  Another reminder that row “houses” are really dorms.

  • Carrie Ann

    Last quarter, just after finishing my last University exam, I came home to find my laptop stolen from my locked room.  It sucked.  Maybe if we had alarmed doors, that wouldn’t have happened.  But I still would rather have some people’s stuff stolen, even if one of those people is me, than be precluded from leaving the doors to my house, Kairos, open when we are having wine and cheese, barbecues, friday forties, or any of the other campus or in-house events that make Kairos so fun.  It’s darn hot in the kitchen in the warmer months, and without the nearby open door I would spend as little time in there as possible.  Everyone’s cost-bennefit analysis will be different: (cost of stolen items) – (benefit of being able to leave doors open when desired).  The residents of the houses should be able to decide.  We should at least be able to turn off the alarms.  As for sexual assault, I only recall one case occurring on the row, but I’m not adequately informed to comment on it.

  • AK

    For co-ops in particular, the ID scanner system could actually be pretty useful. It would be extremely nice to be able to give card access to EAs, for example (assuming housing allows HMs to request access for non-residents). I’m still adamantly against alarms, though. Many co-ops have residents living near external doors, so alarms would be difficult to deal with. Also, particularly in co-ops, many social events are built around a flow between inside and outside areas, which would be difficult to manage with always-on door alarms. I think I’d be fine with managers being able to control the scanner/alarms (to whatever extent), but still generally opposed to any changes that detract from the semi-autonomous, student-managed character and culture of row houses.

    (I’m also curious about why resident fellows were consulted for a decision about row houses? There’s literally 1 row house with RFs)

  • Poop

    Ah ok, yes, I missed this. Good point.

  • Guest

    Key card access doesn’t necessarily mean the annoying alarm voice. At least last year, 680 and 1035 had both key card and metal key access and no alarms when the doors were propped open (which was often). I don’t know if this is what ResEd plans to do, but if so, it really is a best of both worlds.

  • Guest

    Anddd I just read the headline. Alarms would completely and totally suck. But my comment above stands as a nice compromise (key card + key access – alarms)!