One of the more trivial events in the life of a Princeton student is being locked out of his or her dorm room. Princeton Housing and Real-Estate Services has recently implemented a new lock-out policy that implements a monetary fine upon the third lockout occurrence. The rest of the system remains the same under the new policy: locked-out students are able to regain access to their dorms through Housing’s two-option system: If students have been locked out of their dorms, they may walk to the Housing and Real Estate Office in the New South Building during regular business hours, or to the Department of Public Safety at 200 Elm Drive after-hours or during the weekend, and receive a free 24-hour loaner prox. Students who fail to return the loaner within the 24-hour time frame incur a $75 fee. In the instance that physically retrieving the loaner prox is unfeasible, the student has the alternative option of calling DPS’s non-emergency phone number to request the next available dispatcher to bring the loaner directly to his or her room. A student incurs a $30 fine in selecting this latter option in return for the convenience of not having to retrieve the loaner prox at the aforementioned locations. The most substantive change within Housing’s new policy is the implementation of a monetary fine if the student has been locked out three or more times. In response to this policy change, the Board calls for a more lenient lockout policy, specifically removing the new three-strike charge. The Board also urges Housing to remove the $30 fine that has been carried over from the original system if a DPS dispatcher drives directly to the student’s dorm room to let him or her in.
The Board deems Housing’s new, more stringent policy, as an overly burdensome measure for two reasons. First, the policy disproportionately affects certain Princeton students: those living in singles and those who are already financially burdened. Because both of these circumstances are in most instances inescapable (first-year room draw is randomly selected and financial circumstances are private matters), it is unfair for such a policy to exist when many of those affected did not opt into the circumstances, making the fine disproportionately burdensome to them. Furthermore, although the new policy’s fine attempts to place a disincentive on students repeatedly locking themselves out of their dorms, the act itself is inherently disincentivized by the notion of having to walk to DPS at any time of the day or night in any weather condition. This point is further augmented considering the fact that students are often locked out during states in which they are extremely vulnerable, such as while returning from the shower early in the morning or late at night.
For these reasons, the Board strongly advises that Housing revoke its current three-strike policy. Moreover, Housing should allow locked-out students who decide to retrieve a loaner-prox in person from the Housing or DPS offices to receive said prox free of charge, regardless of the number of pre-existing lock-out occurrences. In addition, the Board encourages Housing to forgo the $30 it charges if DPS drives directly to a student’s room to let them back in. This charge is equally and unduly burdensome on students in singles and of a lower socioeconomic background, as is the three-strike policy. If Housing is concerned with students abusing the charge-free system, we believe it can operate similarly to the existing P-Rides system in which students can call for a ride to and from anywhere on campus by explaining to the operator the circumstances that warrant this service. In the case of a lockout, the Board foresees many such legitimate reasons, including that the student may only be wearing a towel or may feel unsafe walking all the way down campus late at night. If DPS is concerned about the availability of cars, there can be the understanding that there may be a longer wait time if students want DPS to drive to them. Students always retain the ability to walk to New South or 200 Elm if they deem the wait time too long. Thus, removing the $30 charge gives students choice without imposing unfair financial constraints. Implementing these changes would allow students who have been locked out to receive the best service possible in a given situation. Moreover, the disproportionate effect which the current policy has upon students in singles and those who are financially burdened would be eliminated.
Getting locked out of one’s dorm room is rarely a pleasant experience. However, the Board believes that the following measures, once implemented, can effectively eliminate some of the greatest inconveniences placed upon the student while not unduly burdening Housing or DPS and their operations.
The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief.