AMHERST Mass.—The University of Massachusetts Amherst plans to spend more than $2 million to upgrade dormitory security in response largely to the reported gang rape of a woman in her dorm room last year.
The recommended upgrades announced Wednesday include a new electronic sign-in system for visitors at all 51 residence halls, which will be installed as a pilot program at one dormitory during the winter break and in use when students return in January. It will replace the current pen-and-paper system. If it works, it will be installed campus-wide.
The new check-in system is one of 87 recommendations contained in a 214-page report prepared by Business Protection Specialists Inc. of Canandaigua, N.Y., hired in March by campus police Chief John Horvath to review dormitory security.
There is not a high level of dorm violence and crime, and strangers lurking in dorms are unusual, he said, but the goal is to reduce what little crime there is. UMass residence halls house about 13,000 students.
“That’s what this report will allow us to do continuously improve,” Horvath said.
Four teenagers who were not students at the university have been charged with raping a woman in her dorm room in October 2012. Although she knew the teens, she had asked them not to visit her, according to prosecutors.
One of the four defendants bypassed residence hall security entirely while the three others were signed into the dorm by a student who did not know them, a violation of school policy, according to investigators. Their cases are pending.
Other recommendations in the report include having permanent desks for security monitors, rather than some dormitories where a desk is rolled into place each night; fixing doors to reduce the number of false alarms; eliminating potential public access points in some dormitories that include stairwells, rest rooms, classrooms, and student-run snack bars; and prohibiting alcohol in dormitories where freshmen and students under 21 live.
Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement that student safety and security is a priority and that he endorses efforts to do more.
“We are committed to implementing improvements and making our residence halls even safer,” Subbaswamy said.