Upon my arrival at Davidson in Fall 2020, the college had restricted CatCard access to college dorms: students’ CatCards could only be used to access the dorms they were currently living in. At the time, this rule seemed fair to me—prior to the release of any type of COVID vaccine, we were tasked with protecting ourselves and others from the virus as we tried to navigate returning to campus in person. However, under our current circumstances, this rule doesn’t seem to make sense anymore.
First of all, if this restriction is still in place to reduce the spread of COVID, it is inconsistent with the rest of the college’s COVID policies. With a 99% vaccination rate among the student body, we were notified that Armfield courtyard would be opened as a gathering space for students two weeks into the semester. As a result, every weekend hundreds of students gather both in and outdoors.This poses much more of a risk to the spread of COVID than on-campus students having access to multiple residence halls. If the school is ready to allow large indoor and outdoor gatherings to resume, where does the hesitation to allow us access to other dorms come from?
Additionally, the lack of CatCard access to all dorms does not conform to the pattern of the other COVID rules related to residence halls. For instance, unlike the past two semesters, we no longer have limitations on the amount of guests we are allowed to host in our rooms; other on-campus students are allowed to visit our dorms without even having to wear masks in the halls or bathrooms. With all of that said, restricted residence hall access doesn’t make sense as an act of protection against COVID.
I also fail to see how this restriction makes our residence halls any safer regarding non-COVID related concerns. For instance, if a non-student were to attempt to gain access to a resident hall, more students having card access would not increase their likelihood of succeeding. The doors to these residence halls would be opened with the same frequency, since residents would need to open the doors for their friends if their guests do not have CatCard access themselves. Ergo, lifting the CatCard restriction for students to enter all residence halls would not increase or affect the risk of non-students entering the dorms.
I think that the justification for this restriction being out of concern for the safety of Davidson students begs the question of what safety means. I would go as far as to argue that student card access to all dorms makes campus an even safer place. To pose a hypothetical, if I was leaving a study session in an academic building late at night and noticed someone who appeared to be a non-student following me, not only would I have nowhere immediate and safe to turn, but I would also have no choice but to lead them back to my dorm, revealing where I live. In this instance, having CatCard access to other residence halls could aid or prevent an otherwise dangerous situation.
Lastly, I think that restoring this CatCard access could help foster a sense of trust between students and the administration. As a student, the fact that most other COVID restrictions have been lifted leads me to question whether the administration doesn’t trust us as a student body to use this CatCard access responsibly. Every student on this campus underwent some form of Honor Code signing ceremony. In fact, I specifically remember the Honor Code and general culture of trust on campus being heavily marketed to me when I was a prospective student. I would hope that if we can be expected to uphold this honor code in other areas of campus life that the college would also trust us with this card access, especially since it was offered to us less than two years ago. Going forward, I hope the school will consider returning CatCard access to all residence halls for students living on campus, as this gesture would make campus a safer and more trusting place.
Samantha Ewing (she/her) is an English major from Atlanta, Georgia. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org