Open Doors, Easy Access

By: Meredith Stancik Email
By: Meredith Stancik Email

It is the place where students are supposed to feel the safest, but one nice move could turn into a nightmarish situation.

News Three has uncovered a security flaw at Texas A&M University that is putting students at risk.

They come seeking knowledge and independence.

But, for new co-eds, college can be a scary place.

Especially when the place they now call "home" is not as a safe as it may seem.

"That is creepy," one Texas A&M student said.

We decided to go undercover to see how easy it is to get inside the dorms at Texas A&M. We chose the Commons, four co-ed residence halls under one roof.

I tried first, walked in waited and tailgated. That's when you follow someone in through the locked doors.

As a girl, there was no problem, no questions even asked. I had easy access to every hallway and every floor.

Next day our photographer Matt gave it a try. He didn't even dress like a student, and someone even held the door to let him in.

He walked through the halls, stood outside girl's dorm rooms, walked right by the girl's bathroom, and no one ever stopped him.

"That's my hall, that's my hallway," Texas A&M Freshman and Commons resident Amy Head said.

We showed Amy and her residence adviser our video.

"Does it shock you," we asked. "That guy was right there, yeah, that was right across from my room," Head said.

We asked several students to watch our video and tell us what they thought.

"Does it surprise you how easy it was for us," we asked one Texas A&M student. "No not at all," Freshman Claire Steel said.

"That's a huge flaw in our security system," Freshman Andrea Howard said.

"It's surprising that it is so easy that nobody even questions and nobody even hesitates to let you in," Freshman Diana Foster said.

We weren't the only ones granted easy access. We watched two guys wait at least five minutes until they were let in.

"If someone was waiting there, you would let them in," Freshman Claire Farinella said. "I don't know why. I guess like common courtesy, but courtesy with a bad person is not a good idea."

We took our video to university administration, and showed them the problem we uncovered.

"Nationally that's a problem that all university administrators worry about," Texas A&M University Vice President for Student Affairs Dean Bresciani said.

Bresciani says it's up to the students to make sure the security system works.

"Security in our dorms is one of our highest possible priorities," Bresciani said. "One of the challenges we face is the most powerful instrument we have to ensuring that security is the students and they can also override any system we put in place."

Right now, doors at residence halls are locked 24 hours a day, and only a student identification card can be used to open them. We're told there are no plans to add additional security.

"If a student chooses to open a door and hold it open for someone they perceive as a non-threatening individual, there's very little we can do," Bresciani said.

But is that enough?

"Ok, how safe can this be when anybody can just walk in," Steele said.

"You can't live your life in fear so that's one of the things you have to take the initiative yourself to lock your door and make sure that your safe," Foster said.

According to the United States Department of Education. In 2006, 14 criminal offenses were reported at residence halls at Texas A&M. That includes six sex offenses and one aggravated assault.

In comparison to other universities. In 2006, the University of Texas had 19 criminal offenses happen at its residence halls.
Including four sex offenses, that is less than Texas A&M, 10 burglaries and two aggravated assaults.

In 2006, Texas Tech University investigated 11 criminal offenses at its dorms. Including three sex offenses and one aggravated assault.

For more information on campus security, click on the link below.

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