Campus Security

So, my daughter has been considering which college to fly off to in the Fall and in so doing, she’s been researching them, visiting, all of the things you do before making such a life-changing decision.  As it stands, she does in fact have some decisions to make, because on one hand, she’s only a couple of courses shy of having her AA degree – prior to graduating high school – at the local college, and she’s been accepted at all of the universities to which she has applied, with varying degrees of financial aid and scholarships awarded. However, this entry is not about decision-making, or being a proud parent – which I am, or the thought of empty-nest syndrome, or even the stress of coming up with tuition. I’m not exactly a parenting blog, not one that extols the virtues of “good” parenting anyway – and this isn’t that type of blog entry. No. This blog entry is about campus security. Even that isn’t right. It’s more a contemplation on the unexpected.

As I was saying, we’re researching colleges. A recent visit was going well, the campus was lovely, the people extremely friendly and helpful. However, there was one odd thing that really stuck with me. The windows. At least, not the windows per se; the windows were regular windows, just glass panes with a frame, but they had these weird locks on them. Not like regular window locks, although they had those too, no, these security devices were placed over the locks and handles to completely stop someone from opening the windows. From. The. Inside.

it’s screwed into the frame and attached to the window pane – a permanent fixture

Now at first, I thought this was just a security thing, keeping the kids safe by making sure access was limited. You have to give them credit for that right? You want a college that’s all about security. But the more I thought about this unusual hardware, the less sense it made. I’ll reiterate the cause for my confusion. The devices were on the inside of the window. The INSIDE. If it’s not to protect the students from the world, is it meant to protect the world from the students? Well, no that doesn’t make sense either, because there were still doors to the outside. I mean, I’m assuming the students have free run of the campus and aren’t kept locked inside like in some horror movie classic.

And here’s another strange thing, it’s not just dorms or classrooms that have these locks, it’s every window. Every. Single. Window. Admissions office, counselors’ offices, student centers, every window is completely closed off to the outside from the inside. It’s regardless of floor, also – because I thought perhaps they wanted to keep people from opening the window in a drunken frenzy and falling out, we all know what college kids are. Nope, they’re all over the ground level floors as well.

Of course, this got me thinking even more. There must be a reason behind this peculiar security measure. Right? I can’t be the only one thinking that. There just has to be a truly interesting backstory to explain away this scenario.

But honestly, what weird circumstance could have happened on this mundane campus to make the Administration decide “You know what, we just have to lock every window on this campus,” to which the Security Office no doubt readily replied “Well, yeah, duh. Every college does that. It’s common sense.” To which Administration responded vehemently “No, no, we must completely block off ALL access – no open windows anywhere on campus, I tell you! We can’t have a repeat of what happened an indeterminate number of years ago!”

Except…what the hell happened? What prompted such decisive action? Were a lot of kids climbing out of the windows and causing damage? If so why? Boredom? Alcohol? I can think of a lot of other ways to have fun – that require much less effort – than climbing out a window when there is a perfectly good door right there that swings open. Of course, that’s just me. Is it zombie prevention? In which case, it’s an utter fail, because you’re sort of trapping them inside and who the hell wants zombies trapped on the inside?

Or maybe they had students sneaking people in and if so, isn’t the Admissions Office kind of too out in the open for that sort of covert activity? And if that’s what was happening, I really want to hear that story, cause those students obviously just don’t give a shit. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s not meant for the students at all. Maybe there was a mutiny and the professors at the end of their tether tried to leave en masse, and if that’s the case, well, the school sure showed them, didn’t they?

It could be for something as easily explained as sheer practicality.  “Shut that door (or in this case, window), were you raised in a barn?” comes to mind. As does “What are you trying to do, air-condition the whole neighborhood!”  Maybe the school’s administration is simply contending with a rash of students whose parents never taught them the fine art of climate control.

Whatever the reason, it remains a mystery. I never asked and there doesn’t appear to be anything in the campus literature – I looked. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

Checking in with Broken Hearts

I’m sure as many of you have heard, there was a mass shooting in Munich, Germany earlier today.  Because of my job, I spend some time online each day perusing the news and that was one story I did not need coming across my feed. Well, quite frankly, all of the stories that I find myself reading on a daily basis could just as well disappear into the journalistic ether if I was being completely honest.

This one in particular struck close to home because I have extended family and friends in Germany and one in particular who was likely in Munich at the time. I’m relieved to say that everyone I know is safe. Sadly, not everyone can say the same, and my heart breaks for the people who lost loved ones and friends.

I know my friends are safe a half a world away because of a simple (well, not so simple, as I have no doubt whatsoever that the coding to create it was amazingly intricate) Facebook App called “Safety Check.”  This genuinely useful application is activated in times of disaster, whether natural or man-made, and allows the Facebook user to “check-in” so his or her friends and family can rest easy and have some peace of mind, knowing they are safe.

While the app was originally created for use during earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and such when cell service likely wouldn’t be available due to downed towers, or when landlines might be rendered useless, (in fact, its development started after the Nepal earthquake), it has evolved into a much-needed and used service when mass shootings or terrorist attacks occur and cell towers are simply overloaded with people tracking down their loved ones.

And while I am so very grateful for the absolutely brilliant minds behind the creation of this genius app, and I’m glad it exists — for purely selfish reasons as well as on behalf of the millions (if not billions) of other people who surely benefit from its use — I wish, oh how I wish, it weren’t needed quite so much.

Under Lock and Key

I just learned there is an app called KeyMe that can make copies of keys using a photograph. The blogger who wrote this article took a photograph of his neighbor’s key in their apartment complex stairwell, had a copy made via the handy dandy KeyMe app, and then later broke into said neighbor’s apartment in a “hey, let’s prove how easy this is” maneuver with the self-made key. Luckily the neighbor was a friend or at least must be, given the blogger wasn’t arrested or shot. And I’m assuming they still are friends after this little exercise in security…or lack thereof.

I must give my heartfelt thanks to Andy Greenberg for bringing this out in the open. I only wish this issue was getting more notice than it is. Although maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the one who has had blinders on. I won’t go into all the details of what the hell would possess a company to create an app like this…Mr. Greenberg does that quite well in his own writing.

What I will bring up, because it’s not mentioned anywhere in the article, is the very important fact that not only is this scary to everyone with regards to being robbed, but for women, it’s frightening on a whole other level in that we now have to worry about keeping our keys under lock and key so as to prevent some creeper who may be suffering a hurt ego, after having his advances rejected, from coming back to our house at a later date and exacting his revenge.

Although credit cards, names, and the like are clearly exchanged in order to get the key made, as mentioned in the article, who would even begin to think that an app like this even exists to KNOW to check with them to find out if that’s how the perpetrator gained access??  I mean, really!? Were any of you aware of such a horribly thought out app?  Or was I the only one in the dark here?

The Locked Door

Like many of us, my daughter suffers from anxiety. Being a teenager there’s what seems like a never-ending list of reasons why her mind could be thrown into a tizzy. Her main source of anxiety comes from school. No, it’s not the academic workload or fretting about standardized tests that hammer home the fear that how you perform will shape your future. She’s an Honor Roll student who excels in the classroom. What she finds stressful are the crowds, the thronging mass of other teens jostling and ricocheting off of each other in the hallways. It’s an everyday, unavoidable occurrence between each period (unless they build her a network of secret underground tunnels, which I don’t think is quite in the school’s budget). Not to mention the annoyance of sharing classroom after classroom with kids who basically do not want to be there and who do not share the same tolerant mindset she has for her fellow human beings.

Well, her anxiety recently got worse due to a safety precaution her school is now taking, or rather, a teacher’s explanation of it. The semesters changed over this past month so classes and teachers also changed. On the first day, a new teacher of one particular class explained that she keeps one of the two doors to her classroom locked because they are the first classroom in the hall and if a madman with an Uzi comes into the school guns blazing, it will be more difficult for him to come busting in their room, spraying rounds. Now I’m all for keeping kids safe. That I have no problem with. I question the teacher’s sense in explaining the reasons behind the locked door, but apparently she felt the kids were old enough to take the news and process it accordingly.

However, this brilliant educator of children went on to voice her opinion that since the door was just a flimsy little piece of wood, the shooter could kick it in rather easily or else simply shoot through it. And what with the second [unlocked] door only about 10 feet down the hall, if the gunman wants to get in, one silly locked door isn’t going to stop him so “either way we’re all screwed anyway.”

I’m just not sure what the hell this teacher was thinking divulging this info to the kids and putting this heinous idea into their heads. She could’ve just said, “I keep that door locked at all times” and end it there. They don’t have to necessarily know it’s to slow down a psycho with a semi-automatic assault rifle, because once that possibility is raised, it can be a little difficult to erase.  Then, by all means, let’s take away even that tiny bit of a safety net by saying it’s completely useless.

This possibility, that someone could be kicking into the classroom at any given moment (because sadly this is the world we live in now)…let’s just say that has not helped my daughter with her anxiety whatsoever.  And she can’t be the only one. Kids nowadays have so much to be anxious over and this is just one more thing to stress about. School, much like home, is supposed to be a safe place. Only it isn’t. You think kids don’t know that?  They know it more than anyone else.

The school itself locks all of its external doors which is a good thing. They do what they can, as most schools do, and that makes me feel better as a parent.   I just don’t quite understand the teacher’s need to give such tragic disclosure. We know why cars have airbags and don’t need commercials showing someone flying through a windshield. We know why we own fire extinguishers and don’t have to be shown pictures of people burning alive.

All I’m saying is that while I appreciate the safety measures being taken I think spelling out the potential consequences can be a little unnecessary – especially given the teacher’s added personal commentary. It seems to me that adding stress to an already stressful situation (high school) could be a little counterproductive to the whole learning experience.