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To ensure dorm safety, UI should mandate RA IDs

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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This is one list of universities the UI shouldn’t want to be associated with. Unlike at other peer institutions, the school’s resident assistants aren’t required to carry identifying credentials, as outlined in Monday’s Daily Iowan.

The UI should follow the example of others who mandate RAs carry identification — including the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities — and uphold its reputation as an institution vested in student interests.

Snuffing out safety concerns, even those marginally threatening, illustrates a genuine care for UI students. Ruling out potential crises before they occur could mitigate a great deal of would-be trouble.

We hope — and expect — university administrators will act proactively on this issue and enact ID badge requirements. Officials said they are discussing the option.

The university has laudably displayed an aptitude for ensuring the safety of students, with programs such as Nite Ride and the HawkAlert. We admire the school’s past efforts, and this issue offers an almost disarmingly easy antidote: Just require RAs to carry IDs.

UI Assistant Director of Residence Life Kate Fitzgerald said RAs are given the opportunity to receive badges, but they haven’t been mandated yet. Additionally, she said, safety is improving in residence halls, citing the process of expanding the proxy-card-entry system to the whole campus.

“I believe our residence halls, for the most part, are relatively safe,” she said.

Residence halls will never be perfect. Cramming a vast number of college students into close confines won’t produce a utopia. But as long as serious criminal offenses aren’t occurring on a regular basis, those in charge should rightfully be commended.

Some RAs don’t find substantial merit in mandating ID badges.

“I find the idea to be kind of idiotic,” first-year RA Jeff Winter said.

Winter said if RAs are doing their job, they should be uniformly recognized by students. Most residents undoubtedly can identify the building’s RAs. But a slight policy change would allay potential misunderstandings. As noted in Monday’s Daily Iowan, UI freshman Betsy Bates didn’t recognize two RAs knocking on her door. Bates feared they weren’t who they claimed.

“One of them asked, ‘Is your roommate asleep?’ That’s when I started thinking maybe these aren’t RAs,” Bates said. “Something could have gone terribly wrong.”

UI officials said complaints similar to Bates’ occur once or twice a year, and some residence halls have created temporary IDs in the past.

If anything, this issue underscores minute shortcomings in the UI’s dorm-centric preventative-measure stratagem. As small of a concern RA credential badges may be, failing to change the current policy would be wrong, especially because the financial burden and ease of enacting such a change would be so little.

The question is whether administrators will sufficiently respond — as they usually do with prudence — to students’ worries about campus safety.


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