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By Stefania Passaglia

You have probably heard about the “Locks on Doors Policy” at Principia. But Dean of Students Maya Dietz says, “There is no policy.”

Most Principia dorms do not have locks on the doors. Where they exist, they have been disabled. Therefore, in spite of the fact that Principia College has no written locks policy, it has a de facto practice of students not being able to lock their doors.

The Pilot interviewed Dean Dietz. Excerpts of her insights on the issue and on how students could have an influence on community issues follow.

Pilot: Have there been any student complaints in the past about this particular issue?

Dean Dietz: Of course! …And I think, if I had to guess, probably part of the reason nothing systemically has happened is because there hasn’t been any coming together and sort of deciding…what’s the value of it? Does the data support it? How much does it cost? How long would it take? …The reality of it is, we have other priorities. Which is in no way to say that, at least the current administration isn’t open to that conversation.

In the Report of the Principia College Panel on Student Experience and Success issued on August 28, a group of nine Principia College alumni surveyed students about their concerns. In the final report, the panel recommended installing “locks on all residence hall sleeping room doors,”  and noted that “the College has not taken steps to protect [students’] physical property from theft and adequately address the incidence of sexual harassment and sexual assault.” (pp. 5, 13)

Pilot: What are the reasons behind not having locks on the doors?

Dean Dietz: I can only tell you what I have been told, I have not seen anything written…I think it was about a culture that [past generations] were trying to create: A culture that is open and transparent and trusting. And if there is more to it than that, I don’t know. I think it’s about who we want to be and what actions we take to reflect that.

Pilot: Are you aware of any theft problems in the dorms?

Dean Dietz: Yes.

Pilot: Do you have more detailed information about that?

CHECKED Dean Dietz: No, if they report it to Student Life we always tell them to report to Security. There is an online form on Security’s website to report thefts. And they keep all of that data…there are probably people who experience theft and don’t report it.

Pilot: Do you think the “policy” may contribute to this being a problem?

Dean Dietz: I’ve thought about that and I would look for data. I mean, if other schools have locks and they still have theft. Is the theft about the locks? …It would be a really interesting question to ask: Do locks actually address theft? I think you could make an argument to have locks on the doors without tying it to theft and without tying to sexual assault and harassment. …But to me those arguments should be tied to actual data, because I don’t know that you can just assume that if you had locks you wouldn’t have theft or sexual assault.

Federally required Clery Act Reports about crime on college campuses show that in 2018 Principia had one theft reported on campus. Dean Dietz suggested that if students officially reported thefts, there’d be data to support the claim of the need for locks.

Pilot:   Do you think locks would make students feel more comfortable?

Dean Dietz: I would say…look at the data; even if the data doesn’t support it you might make an argument for doing it. And one of them might be it would just psychologically make people feel more secure, and there is value in that. Yes, totally.

Pilot: Has the administration assessed the general student sentiment about locks on doors?

Dean Dietz: In 2017, Student Government was asked what the priorities are and they came forward with air conditioning, locks, and ice machines. When asked which one they would like to pursue they said air conditioning…When Student Government, a couple of years ago, was given an opportunity to prioritize [putting locks on doors], they didn’t.  

Pilot: Should Principia make solving this a priority as a community?

Dean Dietz: I would say students complain constantly about a lot of things, so I would say that students need to prioritize. …You have a structure, you have a Senator whose responsibility is facilities. So you have a mechanism for it…. I think it has to happen in collaboration with the students…I’ve already done things like meet with Facilities [about the cost and timeline]. …So, the administration is capable of having that conversation. But no one has come forward and said, “we want you to prioritize this,” at least not since I’ve been here.

In coming issues The Pilot will cover other aspects of this story: What happens at other schools with locks? Did Maybeck build to suit Mary Kimball Morgan’s sense of an open, trusting, and transparent culture? What does the majority of the student body think about the de facto “policy?” How much do students know about traditional practices? Are students aware of what practices can be easily changed?