Students from the General Studies-Jewish Theological Seminary joint program will not get swipe access to Columbia residence halls, despite a student petition pushing for the change.
Natalie Telson, GS/JTS ’15, started a Change.org petition to generate student interest in October, and by the end of the month she had gathered 30 signatures. But the idea hit a dead end last Thursday when the Student Advisory Housing Board decided that swipe access for JTS students was not going to happen.
“During NSOP, I made a lot of friends in CC and whenever I’d go over to their dorms … they would have to come down to sign me in. This just doesn’t seem right—we’re the same age as everyone in CC, we’re friends with a lot of them, we’re in all the same clubs,” Telson said.
Telson joined the General Studies Student Council as its JTS representative, and then approached Ryan Cho, CC ’13 and vice president for policy on the Columbia College Student Council, to ask for CCSC’s support.
Cho said that the issue of cross-school swipe access has been brought up often in his time on CCSC, but this was the first time he has seen it come from a purely JTS perspective.
“For us, it is hard to feel like we’re part of the greater Columbia community when kids living in John Jay can swipe in to Carman with no hesitation if they want to visit with friends,” Arielle Goldstein, GS/JTS ’15, said.
Hannah Goodman, BC/JTS ’12 and List College Student Council president, agreed, calling the lack of swipe access “an unnecessary and frankly annoying hindrance to completely integrating into Columbia culture.”
“The administration was actually very understanding about the issue of community, about accommodating these students who are in kind of a unique position,” Cho said. “But the same issues that apply to the whole situation apply to these students.”
Scott Wright, vice president of campus services, said that administrators’ main concerns were about who should be eligible to use spaces designed for and paid for by CC and SEAS students, and who would be accountable for those additional students.
“The residence halls are intended for the undergraduate residents,” Wright said. “They’re paying for it in their room rate, we use their money to maintain those things, and then to have everybody else have access to those common things just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Wright added that it would be difficult to deal with disciplinary situations if students from outside of CC and SEAS had full access to the residence halls.
“It becomes complicated when we have people who are not in Columbia College or Engineering, who we believe have kicked a hole in the wall or something like that. They’re not subject to our dean’s discipline because there are different deans, there are different rules,” Wright said.
Those problems have come up in previous discussions about increasing swipe access, and administrators continue to emphasize Columbia’s unique policy of allowing undergraduates to enter dorms they don’t live in.
And while Wright maintains that swipe access is not in the future for JTS or other non-CC and SEAS students, he said that administrators are trying to develop a faster, easier sign-in process. The new system will involve scanners that can read any kind of ID card, not just CUIDs, which would replace the current method of signing in guests with pen and paper.
“I think the real key for this situation would be to find an IT solution for guest access to make it easy and fast, and then everyone would be happy,” Wright said.
While not all students are satisfied with that solution, Telson hopes it will be a good compromise to what she understands is a tough situation.
“I think that could definitely help, especially because they’re not willing to give us swipe access and for legitimate reasons,” she said. “I think that’s better than nothing and I think a lot of people would seriously appreciate that.”