How secure is your college?

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A Cherwell investigation has revealed worryingly low levels of security across the University. As the majority of Oxford colleges leave their entrances open during daylight hours, break-ins are not uncommon for most, with some colleges reporting as many as 15 security breaches in the last three years.

Cherwell also investigated how easy it is for a member of the public to enter an Oxford college. Of the 22 colleges observed, 22 colleges left their main doors open, and though one college had a porter on the door, they did not prevent access to the premises. Half of the colleges surveyed had pidge rooms that were easily accessible. In 21 colleges doors around the quad were left open, with only one college requiring a fob to enter.
Somerville had the highest number of break-ins of the colleges who disclosed the number of security infringements to Cherwell, with 15 incidents reported. These included vandalism, graffiti and theft, which may or may not have involved culprits from outside college. Hertford were close behind with 10 instances of security failures, including five bike thefts, three other thefts, and two counts of damaged property.
However, colleges including Christ Church, Jesus and St Peter’s had no security breaches recorded over the past three years. New College also had no recorded incidents, despite the robbery of the JCR’s PlayStation3 by two members of the public in February of this year.
One female undergraduate commented, “The problem with security in many colleges is that if you live in some of the older, in-college accommodation, a lot of the entrances to staircases are big stone archways without any doors. So of course it’s incredibly easy to walk in off the street, especially if you look the right age, and just walk into staircases where people live.”
She added, “A friend of mine who lives in a staircase like this left her room unlocked for the whole of Michaelmas and most of Hilary until something went missing and she realised how accessible her room was. Students should treat their rooms like they would treat their own homes and keep them locked at all times – you can’t blame it all on colleges.”
Cassie Davies, a first year English student at Lincoln, said, “I can’t remember any serious intrusions, but we do get a lot of tourists wandering around in college. This term we even had a tourist walk straight in on a class in our tutor’s room, which is where he lives not just where he works. It’s pretty disconcerting to think people will happily walk around opening private doors – I always lock my door now!”
St John’s PPEist Nupur Takwale told Cherwell, “I do have concerns with security as my own room was broken into, but luckily all my valuables were with me and the only thing they took was some vodka. There is a CCTV camera outside which supposedly points towards my bedroom window, but I was later told by college it was in fact not turned on. Also my bike was taken from outside my house and my friend had the wheel from his bike (also locked outside the house) stolen too.”
One anonymous student from Jesus, which had one of the lowest break-in rates with no recorded security breaches in the last three years, said, “College security at Jesus is pretty tight as the only way in without a key is through the porters’ lodge. Last term the police did an exercise trying to break in and tailgate, but they didn’t manage to without getting reported. It’s a bit less secure on the off-site accommodation though and recently we have had a few bike thefts, but new doors have been installed on the sheds as a result.”
Stolen bikes are a particular problem across Oxford, with bike theft rates in the city reportedly reaching over one per day earlier this year. One student commented, “It’s really frustrating. I left my bike locked outside Worcester for a couple of hours and came back to find it had been stolen. I went to the porters’ lodge, and they told me it happens all the time. Some of my friends have had their bikes nicked too. I’ve got a better lock now, but I really can’t afford to lose this one.”
As well as bike thefts, laptop thefts were surprisingly common, with St Catherine’s recording four occasions where computers were taken from rooms. St Antony’s similarly saw three computers stolen since 2009. Cherwell reported in October last year on the theft of two laptops from St Hugh’s, and in March another attempt to steal a laptop from St Hugh’s was foiled by a don who chased the thief as he fled the college.
One student from Wadham, which reported six security incidents since 2009, had items stolen from his locked bedroom. He disagreed that the problem lay only with students and was critical of college security, suggesting that “a little bit of maintenance needs to be done” to improve it.
However, another Wadham student suggested that members of the college were too trusting as “people will often hold the door open for people they don’t know”. He added, “The other day I gave a staircase code to someone I’d never met before – they looked like a student but in retrospect it was a silly thing to do.”
Although Cherwell’s observations also showed that 12 colleges restricted access to student accommodation, many of these were protected by codes on the doors to the staircase.
Many students have expressed concern over this system. One second year student commented, “Although having staircase codes appears very safe, my college only changes their code once a year and if you ask the porters for a code to a building and look like a student, they’ll often comply.
“Not to mention that my friends and I store the codes on our phones – if they were lost or stolen then someone would have access to not only their possessions but everyone else in the building.”
However, Brasenose student Amy Rollason said, “We had some break-ins in the library last year which was a bit worrying, but generally I feel really safe in Brasenose, especially as the porters are on site 24/7. The only major security breach was from one sly fox. Literally. But other than wandering wildlife we’ve had no other real intruders that I know of.”
One Mansfield student, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed. He said, “Although Mansfield’s security cameras are pretty obvious you can walk right into college without having to go through the porters’ lodge. You need fobs to enter student accommodation but it would be pretty easy to slip in if the cleaners have propped a door open or (more likely) if one of the doors hasn’t clicked shut.
“Lots of students don’t lock their room’s windows or doors either, which is especially stupid of those on the ground floor. Overall I don’t think college can do much more about security, but students should be more responsible.”

A Cherwell investigation has revealed worryingly low levels of security across the University. As the majority of Oxford colleges leave their entrances open during daylight hours, break-ins are not uncommon for most, with some colleges reporting as many as 15 security breaches in the last three years.

Cherwell investigated how easy it is for a member of the public to enter an Oxford college. Of the 22 colleges observed, 22 colleges left their main doors open, and though one college had a porter on the door, they did not prevent access to the premises. Half of the colleges surveyed had pidge rooms that were easily accessible. In 21 colleges doors around the quad were left open, with only one college requiring a fob to enter.

Somerville had the highest number of break-ins of the colleges who disclosed the number of security infringements to Cherwell, with 15 incidents reported. These included vandalism, graffiti and theft, which may or may not have involved culprits from outside college. Hertford were close behind with 10 instances of security failures, including five bike thefts, three other thefts, and two counts of damaged property. However, colleges including Christ Church, Jesus and St Peter’s had no security breaches recorded over the past three years. New College also had no recorded incidents, despite the robbery of the JCR’s PlayStation3 by two members of the public in February of this year.

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One female undergraduate commented, “The problem with security in many colleges is that if you live in some of the older, in-college accommodation, a lot of the entrances to staircases are big stone archways without any doors. So of course it’s incredibly easy to walk in off the street, especially if you look the right age, and just walk into staircases where people live.”

She added, “A friend of mine who lives in a staircase like this left her room unlocked for the whole of Michaelmas and most of Hilary until something went missing and she realised how accessible her room was. Students should treat their rooms like they would treat their own homes and keep them locked at all times – you can’t blame it all on colleges.”

Cassie Davies, a first year English student at Lincoln, said, “I can’t remember any serious intrusions, but we do get a lot of tourists wandering around in college. This term we even had a tourist walk straight in on a class in our tutor’s room, which is where he lives not just where he works. It’s pretty disconcerting to think people will happily walk around opening private doors – I always lock my door now!”

St John’s PPEist Nupur Takwale told Cherwell, “I do have concerns with security as my own room was broken into, but luckily all my valuables were with me and the only thing they took was some vodka. There is a CCTV camera outside which supposedly points towards my bedroom window, but I was later told by college it was in fact not turned on. Also my bike was taken from outside my house and my friend had the wheel from his bike (also locked outside the house) stolen too.”

One anonymous student from Jesus, which had one of the lowest break-in rates with no recorded security breaches in the last three years, said, “College security at Jesus is pretty tight as the only way in without a key is through the porters’ lodge. Last term the police did an exercise trying to break in and tailgate, but they didn’t manage to without getting reported. It’s a bit less secure on the off-site accommodation though and recently we have had a few bike thefts, but new doors have been installed on the sheds as a result.”

Stolen bikes are a particular problem across Oxford, with bike theft rates in the city reportedly reaching over one per day earlier this year. One student commented, “It’s really frustrating. I left my bike locked outside Worcester for a couple of hours and came back to find it had been stolen. I went to the porters’ lodge, and they told me it happens all the time. Some of my friends have had their bikes nicked too. I’ve got a better lock now, but I really can’t afford to lose this one.”

As well as bike thefts, laptop thefts were surprisingly common, with St Catherine’s recording four occasions where computers were taken from rooms. St Antony’s similarly saw three computers stolen since 2009. Cherwell reported in October last year on the theft of two laptops from St Hugh’s, and in March another attempt to steal a laptop from St Hugh’s was foiled by a don who chased the thief as he fled the college.

One student from Wadham, which reported six security incidents since 2009, had items stolen from his locked bedroom. He disagreed that the problem lay only with students and was critical of college security, suggesting that “a little bit of maintenance needs to be done” to improve it.However, another Wadham student suggested that members of the college were too trusting as “people will often hold the door open for people they don’t know”. He added, “The other day I gave a staircase code to someone I’d never met before – they looked like a student but in retrospect it was a silly thing to do.”

Although Cherwell’s observations also showed that 12 colleges restricted access to student accommodation, many of these were protected by codes on the doors to the staircase.Many students have expressed concern over this system. One second year student commented, “Although having staircase codes appears very safe, my college only changes their code once a year and if you ask the porters for a code to a building and look like a student, they’ll often comply.“Not to mention that my friends and I store the codes on our phones – if they were lost or stolen then someone would have access to not only their possessions but everyone else in the building.”

However, Brasenose student Amy Rollason said, “We had some break-ins in the library last year which was a bit worrying, but generally I feel really safe in Brasenose, especially as the porters are on site 24/7. The only major security breach was from one sly fox. Literally. But other than wandering wildlife we’ve had no other real intruders that I know of.”

One Mansfield student, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed. He said, “Although Mansfield’s security cameras are pretty obvious you can walk right into college without having to go through the porters’ lodge. You need fobs to enter student accommodation but it would be pretty easy to slip in if the cleaners have propped a door open or (more likely) if one of the doors hasn’t clicked shut.

“Lots of students don’t lock their room’s windows or doors either, which is especially stupid of those on the ground floor. Overall I don’t think college can do much more about security, but students should be more responsible.”

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