Checking in with Fitchburg State's check-in desks

By Grace Connor

Student checking in at the check-in desk in Mara Village. (Photo by Nicole Rollo)

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” is a Latin phrase translated to “Who will watch the watchmen?” It is often used to reflect on political corruption, but it can apply just as well to the watchmen of Fitchburg State University, the check-in desk workers. They greet you as you enter dorms and watch you as you leave, but do you know anything about them?
Dozens of students are employed by the check-in desk system at FSU, making a decent $8 an hour. The desks at Mara Eight, Russell Towers, and Aubuchon require a rotating staff of about eighteen workers, while the smaller Herlihy only hires ten.
If you’ve ever been in one of these buildings, you know the drill. The desk worker looks up from whatever they’re doing to make sure you live in the building. If you do not, you must show your ID and be signed in by a resident.
But why make a fuss out of who is in what building? Liz Cruickshank, a senior desk attendant, explains that at its heart, “The system serves as a precaution.” Signing in guests makes the resident student responsible for the guest’s behavior, and lets authorities know who is in the building in case of an emergency or a conflict.
Senior Alishia Martel says of the security in Aubuchon Hall, where she lived for two years, “It’s only somewhat effective. There are some workers that are super strict, while others will just check to see you have a Fitchburg ID.” Aubuchon houses about 300 students, and the constant flux of students leaving and entering the building makes it hard to thoroughly check each student. The same sentiment was echoed about Russell Towers, which is home to 450 residents. Cruickshank recalls that in Russell especially, “There would be lines of students, too long for the desk workers to check everyone properly, and some students would just run by. There’s nothing you can do about that.” In both of these buildings, gaining entrance is as simple as walking in with a FSU OneCard. In Herlihy, which only holds 150 students, “The desk workers learn everyone’s face by the time the second week rolls around,” said Cruickshank.
But even without proper identification, there is no security in any building from the hours of 9am to 3pm daily. During these hours, “You can easily sneak someone in,” explains Martel.
And during check-in desk hours, some students utilize fire exits. “The doors say that they are alarmed, but most of them are not. It’s pretty easy to figure out which ones open from the inside, and you can let people in that way to bypass the desk,” said an anonymous junior, who currently lives in Herlihy.
Despite its shortcomings, junior Timothy Michalak describes the desk system as a “necessary evil,” continuing that “In the end, the system protects our safety.” In fact, Michalak believes that the system has improved greatly from its days of unwarranted and “excessive” bag checks. “We can’t stop everyone, but just knowing that we’re here is enough to deter some,” Cruickshank said. The desk workers are also part of a network of communication that keeps the campus safer. Cruickshank recalls a time in which a student brought in a grocery store carriage, its contents obscured by a blanket. “Sure enough, ten minutes later, we got a call from Campus Police asking us to confirm that we saw that student in the building.”
However, one question remains unanswered: why do some dorms have these desks, while the Townhouses, Maras One through Seven, Cedar Street House and North Street Apartments are unregulated? “I honestly have no idea,” admitted Liz Cruickshank, who has worked in the system for three years. The anonymous Herlihy student expounded upon the confusion of many, saying, “You might think that the freedom comes from seniority and living in upperclassmen dorms. But plenty of freshmen live in Mara Village, and Herlihy is primarily upperclassmen, so that doesn’t work out.” Many expressed the same sentiment: “It should be in all dorms or none at all.”