Open door policy

Alarm bells should be ringing

It probably comes as no surprise to many that the Chemistry department, and the potentially hazardous materials stored throughout it, are easier to gain access to than the stacks in the North Room of the library. Still, this ought to set alarm bells ringing – not just within the department, but all the way across campus.

Heightened security is now a simple fact in our lives; it is, we are told, necessary to prevent those who shouldn’t gaining access to things they shouldn’t. An exciting variety of possible uses for the ingredients found in a university chemistry lab are easy enough to find on the Internet. For the price of better locks and a little extra vigilance, we could avoid the unpleasant consequences of our laxity.

If, as seems to be the case, access can be so easily gained to areas of the University that one would expect to be under the tightest security, it seems reasonable to ask where else people can freely wander. What else could they find? In various locations around campus there are medical records, bank details, personal information, codes and passwords – and that’s without even broaching the prospect of a breech of confidentiality within academic research. All this information could be acquired by anyone and, if the access protocols of the Chemistry department are anything to go by, no-one would be any the wiser.

The reliance throughout campus on coded door locks as the first line of defence against intruders has been recognised as inadequate for years, and while the University claim that things are changing, they obviously aren’t changing quickly enough. A sign was recently spotted on a door in Vanbrugh C-block, pleading the following: “Stop leaving this door open and unlocked!! Over £12,000 worth of kit in here.” Where would the money to replace all that kit come from? Who would suffer as a consequence? If we’re going to keep a grip on unwelcome visitors, more than locks need to change.

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