By Jesse McLean
The practice of hiring students to vital security posts in Ryerson residences has come into question after sexual predators raped two students in their York dorm rooms.
On Monday evening, two Eyeopener editors attempted to enter the school’s two biggest residences, Pitman Hall and the International Living/Learning Centre (ILC).
Burying themselves in a pack of students during the dinner rush, the editors strolled past the Pitman desk staff and into the elevator, which they shared with a residence employee to the top floor. The ILC was also accessed without incident.
No one asked the editors for identification. In both cases, students, not professional security officers, were working the desk.
But Glen Weppler, manager of student housing, is steadfast that the current system not only works, but benefits the residents.
“Student staff are a vital part of the staff,” he said, emphasizing that they are giving students employment. He also says it fosters community leadership, and simply provides residents a friendly face during daytime hours.
But a lot of people take advantage of students working at the desk at Pitman, said Nicole Wolfe, a third-year theatre production student who works as a desk staffer at the ILC.
In order to get into the ILC, a potential intruder would have to pass 12 cameras directly transmitting to Ryerson security and a desk attendant via a narrow corridor.
However, at Pitman, where only one employee runs the desk to buzz students through multiple entrances, Wolfe says it’s easier for non-residents to sneak in.
“I think both residences are really secure,” Wolfe said. She has lived at the ILC without hearing of any incidents of sexual assault. “But hearing about what happened [at York] does worry me.”
The attacks at York were the latest in a series of sexual assaults at Ontario universities. Last week, a 23-year-old woman at Ottawa’s Carleton University was bound, beaten unconscious and raped.
As well, three female students were groped in separate incidents while walking on a trail near Laurentian University in Sudbury on Sept. 3.
In the York assaults, police theorize the attackers had a student passcard.
Ryerson security supervisor Chris Beninger said he emphasizes checking student ID cards when training the housing staff.
“No matter how often they come and go,” says Beninger, “checking the cards is our number one priority — that’s the reason the students are working the desk.”
If there are reports that an employee — housing staff or security guard — isn’t verifying the residents’ cards, security investigates the situation. The punishments range from more training to immediate dismissal.
Ryerson security doesn’t plan to increase their numbers. Instead, they are focusing on community awareness.
The school posted crime prevention notices reminding students and community members to lock their residence doors, avoid poorly lit areas and report suspicious behaviour to Ryerson security.