Commuters at Stern are growing concerned over recently implemented security measures that prohibit them from entering the dorms without being signed in. The new policy, which was not officially announced, was brought to light when Stern student Ruchie Gross posted about it on the schoolwide Facebook group “Stern College: In the Know.” Gross, who is not a commuter herself, posted on behalf of her commuting friend, who wasn’t able to enter the dorm after being stopped by security.
The thread exploded with over forty comments and thirty-three angry-faced emojis from incensed commuters. Currently, Stern has a total of 166 students not living in the dorms, who make the daily commute to school. Due to the large number, the new policy has become a hot-button issue that has sparked discussions and debate as to whether commuters have a right to access the dorms.
Commuter Rebecca Labovitch remarked: “I always used to walk into the dorm and use it at my leisure. Then, one day they put up the scanners and mine wasn’t working. Suddenly, I felt like an outsider in my own school. I think that the issue here is that the dorm life is just as much a part of the Stern experience as the school buildings. And therefore, as much as I don’t have a room in the dorm, I always felt like the dorms were there for me as well. When I saw that they were discussing it on Facebook I right away said ‘Hey, I have this issue: how can I advocate?’ because I do feel like it is something that needs to be advocated for.”
Many students, both commuters and those who dorm, have expressed similar sentiments. “I understand why they have a policy for some kind of safety issue,” said commuter Sarah Weisz, “but I think that people who commute feel excluded enough from the Stern community. I think they should have full access to the dorms so they could be a part of student life.”
Before scanners were installed in all of the dorms last year, security was unable to distinguish between commuters and those who dorm. After the installations, commuter ID’s have worked on and off. But as of two months ago, according to security in Brookdale, the scanners have stopped admitting all commuters’ ID cards and they must be signed in by people who live in the dorm.
Though some students who dorm are annoyed to have to come downstairs to sign in their commuter friends, others find it reasonable. “Dormer” Jamie Baum explains that “entering the common rooms of the dorms should not require commuters to sign in, as these are are common areas of the campus. However, dorm rooms are a private space that add an additional cost for students living on campus. Therefore, I believe that if a commuter wants to go upstairs they should be signed in, as it would be unfair for a commuter to spend every night by their friend’s dorm room for free while other students pay over $5,000 for that opportunity. Signing in allows commuters to participate in late night campus activities and spend a night, while avoiding the problem of people taking advantage of the courtesy.”
Members of security have expressed sympathy for commuters, but are upholding the new policies. One guard at Brookdale explained that, “every commuter that comes in is like: ‘Really? But I left my bag upstairs!’ and I’m like sorry, no.’”
When this issue was brought up by Esther Simchi at a recent town hall meeting with President Joel, he agreed that this was something that should be fixed. Currently though, students are confused about why the policy has taken effect at all and if it will ever actually change.
Multiple attempts were made by The Observer to reach out to the representatives of the housing department, but they have not made themselves available for comment. The student life liaison did remark on “Stern College: in the Know” that when she spoke with the head of housing once the issue emerged, its director committed to contacting the deans immediately, since “the decision about this policy that was made over a year ago was made not only by housing or specifically on the Beren campus, but was made for all Yeshiva University campuses by both the housing departments and higher ups at YU.”
Only time will tell if the new system will remain in place.