The 4,000-plus resident students at USF don’t have front desk staff, security cameras or Resident Advisor monitoring – in sharp contrast to the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.
Tom Kane, Dean of Housing & Residential Education, explained that measures to protect residents relied on locked doors, scant patrolling and the blue light system.
Kane said all doors inside and outside USF’s 46 housing complexes remain locked day and night, while Resident Advisors and University Police officers make rounds in their areas. All buildings are equipped with blue light phones, and from midnight to 3 a.m. a student patrol ensures outside doors are secure.
Kane noted that USF’s shrinking police force has taken a toll on Residence hall security. In the past, two officers regularly patrolled the residence hall areas and were known to interact with students and staff.
“The primary impact having fewer officers has on us is response time and police visibility,” Kane said.
Now, UP assigns only one officer per shift to patrol the residence hall areas, rather than dedicating up to two officers to that task.
As the number of officers assigned to the halls has dropped, the number of students living on campus in the halls has risen, with two more residence halls built to accommodate increased enrollment, Ross said.
There are no security cameras inside or outside the halls, although Kane said the University has temporary security cameras to be installed if the University faces vandalism problems. But none are currently being used – even in light of the recent rash of bike thefts.
Kane explained the thefts – close to 50 in total this semester and mostly from residence hall bike racks – have not posed a formidable challenge to the way security is handled.
“While many of the thefts have happened near the halls, where many bikes sit unused for long periods of time, there have been thefts across the campus,” said Kane.
While some universities have front desks staffed to monitor traffic through residence halls, USF’s buildings were not designed to have front desks, Kane said.
“Each complex (Andros, Argos, Cypress, Greek Village and Magnolia) has an office with mail service. Holly M serves as the 24/7 desk operation for all halls,” said Kane.
Instead, Kane said, students are charged with policing their own dorms and making sure unauthorized people don’t get in.
“We depend on students not to allow strangers into the buildings. If they see someone strange, they should call the staff or University Police,” Kane said.
USF does have Resident Advisers but each RA is in charge of 30 to 70 students, according to Kane.
So how does USF stack up against UF and UCF?
Both universities maintain higher on-campus student populations than USF and employ front desks and security cameras – something USF has not done yet.
UCF employs security cameras and uses front desks, which, with one exception, are staffed around the clock, according to Meredith Varner, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life at the university.
UF has 11 offices that serve its 24 residence halls, and all but one are active all the time. UF also has a group keep watch outside the halls overnight, said Sharon Blansett, Assistant Director of Housing for Marketing, PR and Research with UF.
Expanding on-campus housing is a stated goal in USF’s long-term strategic planning. To meet criteria for inclusion in the American Association of Universities (AAU), one of the University’s chief long-term goals, USF must increase the proportion of its students living on campus.
Rachel Pollack, a resident of Delta Hall, said she had trouble finding her RA at times. When she tried to call for an RA, she got Holly M, the hub for calls.
“Staff there promised someone would come, but they never did,” Pollack said.
Engineering major Jamison Fierbrandt, who lives in Kosove, said she hears her RA walking the halls as she goes to sleep at night.
She said she’s not bothered by the University’s delay in installing security cameras.
“Why should our housing cost go up when we don’t need them at the moment?” Fierbrandt asked. “I know how to contact my RA because it is on a giant poster right outside my door.”
Pollack said the University needed to speed up its timeline for the installation of cameras.
“That is a shocker, to know that they’re waiting for something bad to happen before doing something,” she said. “Preventative measures are always worth the money.”
Correspondent Ashley Davidson contributed to this report.
Christine Gibson can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or firstname.lastname@example.org