UH Dorms Need Rules, Not Cops

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 29, 2007
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There are some people, like me, who have lived the majority of their adult lives in either a dormitory, barrack or condominium.

There is a lot to learn from living in a communal setting. Your fellow residents or roommates become like family and the general tendency is to watch out for each other’s property and well-being, and protect the community property as if it were yours.

I lived in the Atherton House just off University Avenue in the ‘50s when I first attended UHManoa. It was tough getting a room in a dorm even back then, and when you heard you were awarded a room it was like winning the lottery. It certainly makes the university experience more meaningful, especially the intra-dorm activities.

After that dorm experience, I won a spot (by not studying hard enough) at Quad-K at Schofield Barracks. I adjusted quickly because there wasn’t too much difference between the two. Well, that’s not entirely true. Not many people tried to sneak into a military barrack, while just about everyone had a way to sneak into Atherton House for different reasons. After graduation from Quad-K, I was assigned to Headquarters Company at Fort Shafter. It was a lot like Quad-K, but residents there were sneaking in and out routinely.

My next dorm was in Wiesbaden, Germany, and though it was a lot colder and no one could understand my local dialect, it was the same routine. Once I learned to speak a little German it was just like any other barrack.

My next encounter with dorm living happened when I was discharged and got a job as a security officer at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I had a room in the basement, room service and free meals prepared by a chef.

Then my life changed drastically, because there was a riot at the Hale Anuenue Athletic Dorm at UH, and the resident manager was seriously hurt by ruffians who attacked the dorm after a wild party at the Blue Goose Bar & Grill overflowed to the dorm. In their drunken stupor, they beat the resident manager to a bloody pulp with his phone as he attempted to call HPD for help. The dorm sustained more than $15,000 in damages and everyone wanted to move out immediately.

It was billed as a local-haole fight; it was nothing more than a dorm without rules and discipline, but because it was at an athletic dorm it was news. I was the only local member of the coaching staff at UH and working as a resident security officer, so I was the logical choice to succeed as resident manager at Hale Anuenue. I agreed to take on the challenge, because back then UH athletes didn’t have any place to live on or close to campus, and athletes were not welcomed at any of the other “on-campus” places like Johnson Hall or even Atherton House.

I didn’t have any trouble being resident manager of Hale Anuenue. It has only 90 beds at the most and is made out of cinder block - low cost, no frills and no parking. Made a few improvements, put a gate on the entrance and exit and assigned security duty to three of my favorite football players. Cliff Laboy took care of the third floor, Levi Stanley was given the second floor, and Simeon Alo, because of his engaging personality became the official greeter on the first floor. The rules were simple: No outsiders allowed in the dorm after the front gate is locked by the resident manager at 10 p.m. (No exceptions). If non-registered visitors were locked in after 10 p.m., they would have to jump from the second floor. Funny thing, in my five years as resident manager at Hale Anuenue nothing was ever stolen, no one was assaulted, and they were the best years of my life.

The rules I had learned in the military about living in a dorm were solid. So you can see why I was shocked to hear about all the problems they had on “move-in” day at the Hale Mokihana last week. After my stint as resident manager of Hale Anuenue, I spent more time at a dorm at USC in 1985 and Stanford in 2002. The one thing that all these peaceful, safe dormitories had is a manned front desk and a sign-in, sign-out register.

Cameras and electronic key systems are far too expensive for a state-supported university. The real problem is that security at UHManoa is seen as a non-revenue producing activity and therefore does not warrant any significant priority. It should, because it is a care-and-custody responsibility.

In this recent incident, it seems obvious that someone needs to orient incoming residents about protecting each other, protecting their residence and using common sense, like locking your door before you retire for the night.

And for those who think they will enhance the university experience by having armed guards walking around campus with weapons, with badges, dressed in gestapo uniforms and carrying batons, they are wrong.

The ambiance at a university is supposed to stimulate intellectual curiosity. If you need professional help, call 911. Otherwise, depend on well-trained desk clerks, dedicated resident managers and conscientious residents.

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