Outside of EC, about 50 students wait on the stairs awaiting instructions from public safety at night.

One of many groups of students who were denied access to EC tonight.

As Halloweekend reached its climax, hundreds of East Campus partygoers and residents faced delays and denials as Public Safety attempted to keep order in the busy residence hall.

We’ve already written about how many people sign into EC on an average night, but tonight topped any other day of the semester so far. The problems started early, as EC’s electronic ID-recognition system was inoperable. Public Safety officers signed in students with a manual, handwritten sign-in log that was ill-equipped to handle EC’s volume. As the queue of students built, Public Safety kept the lobby relatively clear, but did so by forcing students out into the building’s vestibule and outside porch. As a result, the mass of students (some residents, some signing in, and some signing out) extended far outside of EC.

Around 12:15 am on Sunday, after a change of Public Safety guards, one officer stationed at the front door began to announce that students who were not residents of East Campus would not be allowed to enter. “If you don’t live here,” he proclaimed, “start leaving.” As the message slowly reverberated through the cloud of students, tensions rose. Students shouted at and occasionally pushed against Public Safety officers, who shouted back. Residents of EC were herded through the bottleneck in the vestibule, and their residency status was checked before they were granted access. Hopeful sign-in recipients were predictably outraged at their inability to enter the building, whether they wanted to party or to reach significant others. People attempting to sign out were the most upset, as many of them were stuck in the line, cut off from their student or government-issued ID’s. Hundreds of tired, confused, and/or thirsty EC-goers were forced to wait for up to half an hour before Public Safety restarted the queues to allow people to enter and exit.

Even before the statement that guests would be turned away, Public Safety caused frustration with their pace. Guests who got in line for East Campus at 11:40 pm were still outside waiting to enter the building proper a half hour later. As has become the norm, multiple Public Safety officers attempted to control traffic by directing students against EC’s south walls, an order which is rarely obeyed for long. Tonight’s long lines were the capstone in a series of frustrating waits. Why is East Campus, by far the most popular dorm for sign-ins, equipped with the same system as other buildings? And why were non-residents with swipe access denied entry to a building they had never before been turned away from? Any experimental change to East Campus’s sign-in system (or to Columbia’s system as a whole) would be a welcome one.

As the night rolled closer to 1:00 am, the electronic sign-in system came back into place, and while officers insisted that only residents were allowed in, a few lucky nonresidents were able to fight their ways through.

Image via Youngweon Lee