Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Humboldt.


Starting next Tuesday, Cal Poly Humboldt will roll out its “Campus Locking Plan,” a new policy that limits access to academic buildings to address alleged safety concerns on campus. The restrictive policy has drawn criticism from university staff and faculty who worry that it creates unnecessary barriers for students. 

Under the new policy most buildings on campus “will remain locked at all times” with exceptions for “open buildings,” including the library, Gutswurrack Student Activities Center, Student Health & Wellbeing Services, Student and Business Services, Student Recreations Center, College Creek Marketplace, the J and the Depot, which will remain open during normal business hours. All other buildings will require a key card or a PIN code for entrance.

Staff and faculty will have 24/7 access to their own offices, according to a notice posted to the university’s website on May 21. Staff’s access to all other academic buildings will be limited to business hours: Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends.

According to the notice, “Students will have key access to buildings where their classes are held.” Some staff and students interviewed by the Outpost took that to mean that students will only have access to specific buildings. However, University spokesperson Aileen Yoo clarified: “Students will be given access to all buildings during open building hours and they are not restricted to the buildings that their classes are being held in.”

Academic buildings will remain unlocked during public conferences and campus events “as long as entrances are staffed or monitored by event personnel,” according to the announcement. “Primary key holders” will be responsible for letting event participants into campus buildings and ensuring doors are not propped open and remain fully locked. The notice does not specify who is considered a “primary key holder.”

The university says the new policy is “a significant step toward improving safety for the campus community and addresses concerns raised by faculty and staff in recent years.” However, some university faculty interviewed by the Outpost contend that the alleged safety concerns are unfounded.

“We have never heard of this,” said Aaron Donaldson, a lecturer with the Department of Communications and secretary of the Humboldt chapter of the California Faculty Association (CFA). “If this has been something that [the administration] has been working on for several years, then it’s been years that they have neglected to tell us. What are the specific concerns? They don’t have to put names to it, but they should be able to say, ‘These are the specific requests.’”

The timing of the new policy is difficult to ignore, Donaldson said. Just a few weeks ago, Cal Poly Humboldt made national international headlines after pro-Palestine protestors took over Siemens Hall, one of the university’s administrative buildings. The weeklong occupation prompted administrators to impose a “hard closure” of campus and, eventually, call in law enforcement from all across Northern California, culminating in over 30 arrests on April 30

Yoo said the plan was initiated four years ago in response to “concerns related to incidents such as vandalism, theft, harassment of faculty, destruction of our gender-inclusive restrooms and individuals attempting to live in our buildings.”

“Given those factors and the University’s commitment to bolster campus safety, we began the process of updating building access protocols and evolved systems to better manage facility access in 2020, which enhanced our ability to secure facilities,” Yoo wrote in an emailed response to the Outpost’s request for additional information. “There’s a misconception the plan stems from the protest. The protests are one of several factors behind the timing of the locking plan, but … this plan has been in the works for some time.”

Administrators thought it made sense to move forward with the pilot plan this summer since there are fewer people on campus, she added. 

“I don’t doubt that this has been in the works for years – I don’t doubt that at all – but I do think it’s dodgy, and I think it would have seemed fairly extreme and unnecessary if it were done before the protest,” Donaldson said.

Erin Kelly, chair of the Department of Forestry, Fire and Rangeland Management, didn’t give administrators that much credit, noting that the policy seemed “half-baked.”

“I am concerned that it was communicated poorly and dishonestly, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth after the events of the last month,” Kelly told the Outpost. “This policy just reflects a general disregard for the day-to-day functioning of our university. … This is not clearly increasing anyone’s security, it is creating work for people who do not have time to do the work. I do not see safety benefits, only a kind of paranoia. … This kind of overreaction is typical of what we have seen recently.”

Cindy Moyer, chair of the Department of Dance, Music and Theatre, had a similar perspective, noting, “If [this policy] truly was in the works for years and no one thought to consult stakeholders, the university leadership is even more dysfunctional than I had realized.”

All of the faculty members interviewed by the Outpost said the unprecedented announcement failed to provide much-needed information about the policy’s rollout, leaving staff with more questions than answers. 

What happens if students lose their key cards? Will staff and faculty have to pause their lecture to let a student into the building? If that’s the case, Kelly said staff will be “constantly running around” to help their students, and will likely find themselves in difficult situations – “sometimes with ADA implications, like people need an elevator in a specific building to access another part of campus” – in that process. 

On top of that, key cards will inevitably be lost and misplaced, Moyer said. “If we have 6,000-plus keycards issued to students and faculty, it will probably take about a week before a good number of them are lost and picked up by people that we would prefer not to have in the buildings,” she said. “At that point, all the value of the external locking system is lost.”

Yoo said the university will issue PIN codes to students to provide “greater flexibility for those who prefer to use a code or forget their key card.” Both the PIN code and the key card will be connected to the student’s name and ID number, she said.

Kelly also expressed concern about public access to the university. “We are a public institution, and we just created a massive barrier for public entry and participation on our campus,” she said.

“Every thesis presentation for graduate students is public. Do we have people stationed by the doors for every event?” Kelly continued. “We have frequent visitors, including alumni, who come to discuss career opportunities with students or who are on advisory committees or other on-campus groups and now we need to arrange for every single member of the public to get into buildings. Who is going to do this work?”

The notice sent to staff also notes that the new policy will “increase energy efficiency on campus going forward.” Kelly and Moyer were both puzzled by the claim.

“It is obviously not going to be energy efficient because locks don’t provide energy efficiency,” Kelly said. “People will likely start propping doors open.”

Moyer added that keeping external doors open is essential for some buildings, including Music B, where temperatures can spike up to 100 degrees in the summer months due to the big glass windows on the west side of the building.

“As a result, the air conditioning works very hard, and all the classrooms get very cold,” she said. “The best solution is to prop open as many doors as possible, which can lower the lobby temperature by 10 or 15 degrees, and thus save considerable energy. The restriction against propping open doors will both make the building uninhabitable and cost us more energy.”

Students interviewed by the Outpost raised similar concerns. Rae McGrath, an ecological restoration major, said the locking system poses “another inconvenience to students” who are just trying to get through school.

“It seems to me that the university is sending out a lot of mixed messages [about] whether or not it’s a community space,” he said. “There are a number of community resources on campus, like the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) and the Women’s Resource Center [in Nelson Hall] that I was under the impression was, like, open to the community. Under this new policy, the buildings there would be closed unless you have a key card.”

Art Education major Janie Mendosa said the new policy “seems like a logistical nightmare” for staff and faculty who will be tasked with enforcing the rules. 

“We pay so much in tuition, so that’s a concern as well,” she said. “It seems like [the university] is not giving what they promise.”

All of the people interviewed for this story said they had never heard of a university imposing such restrictive security measures on a university campus. Donaldson noted that some high schools keep their exterior doors locked during school hours but said those security measures didn’t come about “until the shootings started.”

“I think there are very vague ways that [administrators] contextualize threat and risk, and this was incredibly true during the protest in very counterproductive ways,” he said. “[T]here’s no direct proof of these conversations around safety concerns. And if they are happening, they’re not happening with the union.”

Asked if similar security procedures have been implemented at other California State University campuses, Yoo said such policies “are not uncommon.”

“[CSU] Dominguez Hills, CSU East Bay, and San Jose State have locking guidelines like ours, and several other CSU campuses are moving in this direction as well,” she said.

Moyer said some staff in the Music Department have had safety concerns with homeless people sleeping in the music buildings, but said that issue was “mostly” addressed by giving students keycards to classrooms and practice rooms. When Moyer initially raised the issue to university higher ups, she asked if music students could have key card access to exterior doors to accommodate people practicing late at night. 

“We were told that we couldn’t have that because the exterior door cards cost $5 each,” she said. “Perhaps that cost has been reduced? If not, this locking plan is going to be very expensive.”

Yoo did not directly respond to the Outpost’s question about the cost of the new infrastructure, though she did say “most campus buildings are already equipped with card readers.” 

“While all classrooms have a locking system, the University secured in March a contractor who will be installing new locks that give people the ability to secure doors from inside classrooms,” she added. “We anticipate that work will be completed sometime this summer.”

The “Campus Locking Plan” will take effect at the start of the summer term on Tuesday, May 28. More information can be found at this link.