Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Editorial: UMass addressing security

A property’s security system is only as good as the rules it sets out. If those rules aren’t followed, you might as well leave the door unlocked.

While University of Massachusetts students have been on spring break this week, a team has been on campus gathering information about practices already deployed at the university’s six residence areas to keep unwanted or uninvited visitors out.

When students return, employees of Business Protection Specialists Inc. of Canandaigua, N.Y., will watch the system in action and then promptly report their findings to the school.

The quick turnaround is designed to help the school fix problems with security by next fall for the roughly 12,500 students who live in 43 dorms on the campus. The survey will also question students about dorm security.

In its time on campus, the consultant must study factors that aid, or degrade, security: how people get into buildings, the types of controls in place for keys and access cards, how policies are communicated and enforced and how well student security monitors and their supervisors perform, to name a few.

The check into security fulfills a promise by the school to respond to an alleged gang rape inside a school dorm last fall. It isn’t a mystery how the four men charged in that crime got in.

Three of the four were signed in by a student who didn’t know them — against school policy. The fourth didn’t sign in at all. Dorm doors are kept locked and students must swipe access cards to get inside their housing.

Because of what’s already known about how the rape suspects got in, solutions suggested by the consultant will have to address a difficult piece of this puzzle — the erratic conduct of human beings. Before this is resolved, we expect the school will have to decide how much it is worth to significantly improve security. It is investing $39,500 in the consultant’s work.

A little safer isn’t saying much. Security exists or it doesn’t.

NEPR’s rebirth

We hope Amherst’s loss is the region’s gain, as New England Public Radio begins work to significantly increase its presence in Springfield.

A major project to renovate space in a downtown Springfield building will enable the station to improve coverage of the largest community in its listening area and live up to its new branding.

For half a century, under the name WFCR, the station has operated out of space at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the heart of its early mandate to serve audiences in the Five College area.

But the station has expanded its range and added listeners in Hampden County and down into Connecticut. The station had outgrown its quarters at UMass.

Once the project in Springfield is finished next spring, NEPR staff will work mainly from Springfield, with a small presence at UMass.

It will keep a facility on campus called the Five Colleges Studio with two employees to handle news production, train interns and record interviews with upper Valley newsmakers. Martin Miller, NEPR’s CEO and general manager, says he plans to work out of Hampshire House at UMass one day a week.

The price of all these changes is high. The Fuller Block Building rehab at 1525 Main St. in Springfield will cost NEPR nearly $7 million, the station has said. The NEPR Foundation says it has already raised $5.5 million through a capital campaign linked to the station’s 50th anniversary.

We wish Miller and NEPR luck with this ambitious undertaking. The station’s local and national news programs contribute significantly to public understanding.

The project comes at a time of retreat by many news organizations. The station must now show listeners that, with their help, it can step up its news gathering and become an even more essential piece of the Valley’s media universe.

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