Students to pay for room lockouts

The Student Life Team announced that there will now be a limited number of dormitory lockout requests per student before they are charged a fine, according to a campus-wide email sent out on Jan. 17, 2023.
“If a student accumulates 3 lockouts, their 4th and any subsequent lockout requests will result in a $25 per lockout charge to the student’s account,” the email stated.
There was a grace period during the move-in weekend, so if students were locked out of their room before Jan. 17, they will still start the spring semester with zero lockouts.
Dean for Student Life Trae Yeckley said the new policy is designed with the intention of trying to prepare students for life after college.
“What we want to kind of get students in the habit of is taking accountability and responsibility,” Yeckley said.
Yeckley later clarified that lockouts from apartments which require a card swipe for access and can be unlocked remotely by the Office of Public Safety will also be held to the same fee standards.
Rian Watson, ’24, thinks charging for lockouts is too extreme of a policy.
“I feel like that’s a little unfair because mistakes happen,” Watson said. “As freshmen, it’s a big responsibility — or even sophomores who have the actual key for their room — it’s something new that they have to learn to remember to always keep their key.”
There were a total of 1,083 lockout requests processed through Public Safety during the fall 2022 semester, according to the email.
“Considering that we’re a campus of 1,300 students, that number of lockouts is significant,” Yeckley said. “While it may not seem like that big of a deal to students, like, ‘Oh, it’s just a few minutes and they’ll come let me in,’ that takes a public safety officer away from their rounds — away from their duties to go unlock a door.”
Sasha Holguin, ’24, thinks public safety officers have enough time to respond to the lockout requests.
“All public safety does is handle lockouts — it’s what they mostly do, so I think (the lockout fee) is really annoying,” Holguin said. “I think it’s unnecessary. I think most people aren’t locking themselves out as many times as the email made it seem. It seemed like it was an egregious number, and most people I know at least don’t lock themselves out super regularly.”
Most students who filed lockout requests with public safety during the fall 2022 semester incurred less than four lockouts, while 34 students incurred more than four, and a “good number” incurred eight or nine, according to Yeckley. One student experienced 11 lockouts. Last semester, it came to Yeckley’s attention that some students even opted to purposely leave their keys in their residence hall, counting on public safety to assist them later.
“Those are the people where I want to change their behavior to help them know that they need to carry their key,” Director of Public Safety James Basinger said. “Because if you’re an adult and you do this and you have to call a locksmith to unlock a car or to unlock your apartment or your house, it’s going to cost you a lot of money. I expect people to forget their keys. That’s normal, but not 11 times. That’s the target, is to eliminate that excessive person who just doesn’t care what their actions are — at least that’s the way it feels after you’re going over multiple times for the same person.”
Basinger said when officers have to respond to an “inordinate number of lockouts,” it detracts from the time they use to complete their other regular duties and responsibilities. Officers complete regular patrols and rounds on campus, assist students with car difficulties, issue parking tickets, respond to student emergencies and fire alarms and secure campus buildings, among other tasks.
After approximately 4 p.m., Basinger said Public Safety is the only active department on campus, so they also then act as a switch board for students and stand in for Physical Plant. On top of that, the officers try to be generally present and available to respond to events quickly if they need to.
“We want to make sure that Public Safety is utilizing their time to best serve our students’ safety,” Yeckley said. “While it may seem like, ‘Oh they’re just walking around,’ they actually have a lot of responsibilities — especially on the night shifts — just to make sure the campus is secure.”
The development of the new lockout policy has been in the works since August 2022. According to Yeckley, the topic was not initially broached by public safety officers, but instead was brought up as a result of student complaints about officer response times to lockouts.
As part of a general review of how public safety officers regularly spend their time, Yeckley, Basinger and a Student Life team analyzed its data and came to the conclusion that officers were allocating a disproportionate amount of time to responding to student lockouts.
To address the issue, the team gave out free lanyards to students and posted flyers around campus reminding students to take their keys with them when leaving their residence halls. Only when those efforts failed to lower the number of lockout requests did the team decide to implement the new policy.
Yeckley said they recognize that emergencies happen and that the $25 fee can be significant for some students, which is why there is an appeal process if the student is unable to pay the fee. Yeckley said they encourage students to always call Public Safety if they experience a lockout, regardless of their financial situation.
“We’re not trying to be extra harsh,” Yeckley said. “We’re trying to have a way to remind students, ‘Hey, did you check your pockets?’ Because sometimes if you don’t check your pockets, it might cost you $25.”