Hey, something I’ve been harping on for years is finally in the news!
This absolutely is not an isolated incident. I’ve worked at four separate universities since I moved here. Every single one of them has done this. Big, huge, rusty chains locked with a padlock, bicycle chains… you name it, I’ve seen it all. I’m not sure about the place I work now—I should ask students tomorrow—but I wouldn’t be surprised. My impression is that, if it’s not universal, most universities do it. (And lots of other kinds of buildings, too.)
Hell, at my last job, the office buildings were locked that way, too. There were loopholes—an elevator behind some random door that the guard never locked, or a single door in a complex of buildings that would be regularly left unlocked, if you knew where to look—but the buildings where my offices were located were both locked with chains, and no apparent way out if you ended up at the office late and didn’t happen to know about these means of exit. (In one building, sometimes there were security guards around. Sometimes. Not always, though, especially after midnight.)
At every university I’ve worked at, since I noticed it, I’ve brought it up to students. In my last job—the one I worked seven years, where I mostly loved the students and worked hard to advocate for them—I brought it up to colleagues, administrators, and classes alike, trying to raise awareness that it’s (a) illegal and (b) dangerous, trying to get someone to do something, even if it was just to report it to the local fire department.
This, of course, achieved absolutely nothing.
I remember saying, “So… we’re just going to wait until this kills some students, and then change it? Really?”
Of course, that was poo-pooed. “Don’t worry so much,” I was told.
The thing is, in South Korean society, this kind of negligent disregard for safety is kind of ubiquitous.
Ask yourself why half the doors on any major building in South Korea are “locked” or “fixed.” If the people running the building didn’t want that many doors, why have them installed? Why not design it with fewer entrances?
Okay, I’m not a building code expert, but I’m willing to bet that it’s fire safety regulations that mandate the number of doors a building must have, according to its expected capacity. Hence a campus hall has X number of doors.
The point being that you’re not supposed to be locking up half of them. If people need to get out in a hurry, that bottleneck costs lives. It gets people trampled, asphyxiated, and injured or killed.
Meanwhile, it’s not even really apparent to me why the doors are locked, except because a lot of people seem to have a deep-seated desire to create bottlenecks… well, and minimize how much work they need to do at the end of the day. (If half of the doors are already locked, you only have to lock the other half, as one security guard commented, through a student, when I asked about this.)
So I wonder if the incident reported in this video will create any momentum for change… I wish it would, but the fact that the guard went straight back to chaining the door a few days after the original incident boggles my mind. The fact administration claimed they didn’t know about it doesn’t, though: that’s downright typical. If you believe that claim, you’re an idiot. The chaining of dormitory exits at night is universally known on the campuses where it’s practiced: it’s no secret, and if students complained to administration about it absent some dangerous, near-fatal incident, can you guess what would happen?
My money’s on nothing happening, because I have raised the issue time and time again, and that’s what happened. It’s almost enough for me to bust out those old topic tags I used to use when writing about stuff like this: “Nonfunctional Systems” and “The Art of Avoidable Cataclysm.”
Here’s hoping that changes. But… it’s still only one specific safety issue, in a landscape rife with general disregard for safety protocols. That’s a much bigger problem to fix.
Because the really alarming thing is that students weren’t complaining about this from the day it started: they didn’t see how it could be a safety issue. Why that is, is a harder question to answer: and a more important one to tackle.