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All doors to dormitories on campus are hooked into a system that tracks whether they are opened or closed, and if open, how long they have been open for. Furthermore, a signal is sent back through a network to Security's main office, where an individual monitors the readout for alerts.
The door buzzer is one element of the campus security system. When a dormitory door is prevented from closing completely for more than about one minute, it sounds a loud alarm from a small speaker located next to the door, that can be heard throughout the building. The intent is to notify any student in the dorm so that he or she will come and properly close it, because leaving a door so propped would be a security risk -- especially since a handily loud alarm alerts any passers-by with unwholesome intentions that there is a point of access open to them.
Disabling a Door Buzzer
Though one can imagine that a world without door buzzers may be much worse than the world we know, it must be admitted that the average student feels more often hindered by the alarm than helped by it. The buzzer's benefits, after all, are passive: who knows how many crimes have been foiled by its keen vigilance? But poignant in our memories are the time we've wished to move a new couch into the dorm, or prop a door for a visiting alum, or leave access for ourselves through a one-way exit door, such as those located in the backs of Currier or Chadbourne. We might think, sometimes, that it would be a great convenience to be able to disable these suckers, if only for a short while.
Legitimate reasons, then, certainly exist for disabling a door buzzer. The only legitimate manner, however, of disabling a buzzer is to call Tina van Luling of Security at x4970. With enough notice and a reason deemed sufficiently good, she may help you out.
The History of Buzzer Disabling
The First Buzzer Disabling in Recorded History
Once upon a time, not long ago, there lived a student in the large double on the first floor of Hubbell, the "Hubbell Double" as some call it. Besides being an excellent room in location, size, and other amenities, this double has the distinct advantage of having access to a nice little patio. Now, patios on the Williams College campus are much like terraces in apartment buildings in real life: they raise the perceived value of the room significantly, even though tenants who move in typically find themselves using it for storage space, or not at all. "What a keen little terrace" they think, and they pay the extra cost for the flat, worth about half a room, and imagine the barbecuing and people-watching they'll be able to do. Alas, their grand plans rarely ever come to fruition, and so also is it on the Williams campus, where subzero weather for about 2/3 the academic year makes most not want to sit outside when they could sit inside in a warm room.
But the gentleman who resided that year in the Hubbell Double was different. An avid hiker in the Outing Club and a confirmed Polar Bear, this hardy Vermonster was not to be daunted from using his patio. He'd picked into the room with his mind's eye on a rocking chair and a mug of tea, both of which could be properly enjoyed on said patio. Temperature would be no bar to the realization of these dreams.
But this man had not counted on the door buzzer. You see, because the door from his room was an external door, even though it felt like just a door from one part of his room to another, it was a one-way door, unopenable from the outside and equipped with a buzzer that would sound if the door were propped, and produce a noise, he soon discovered, that was not propitious to the enjoying of tea on a rocking chair.
Being a reasonable man who always tried first to do things above-board, he called Security and asked to have the buzzer disabled. Refusal. No promise of responsibility could make them see that it would be worth it to compromise the security of Hubbell so that the patio could be used as a patio was meant to be used.
Well, as we all know, necessity is the mother of invention, and mother always said, "If at first you don't succeed, find a shadier way to accomplish it." And so it came to pass that the buzzer was disabled in a discreet manner that resulted in no harm or fees to anyone.
Chapter Two: A Door Breaks in Chadbourne
Hubbell was not the end of the end of the story. The next year, the very same Hubbell Double Man sought to leave behind his fame and seek a quiet existence in Chadbourne, a small house next to the JRC that was, back then, not a co-op.
Life was good in Chadbourne, as it always is. The house was small, the kitchen well stocked, and the living room, while not a patio, had four large windows and cozy chairs that well facilititated tea-sipping. A pleasant fall passed, and our friend was living the dream of the good man turned criminal: to return peacefully to society. Yea, he slept the sleep of the innocent that season.
But then the winter came, and something went horribly wrong. Whether it was from cold, or the slow sinking of one corner of the old house into the soft ground beneath (I kid you not), the heavy external back door on the house began not to close. Residents would fly out to an 8:30 class, thinking it was slamming shut behind them, when in fact the warped doorframe would allow the door to swing just shy of shut. At 8:31 AM, the residents in the house without an 8:30 AM class (ie, all the sensible ones), were awakened by the infernal buzzing.
This became unfortunately frequent. Though he felt the pull of his old treachery, our man tried to resist his door-disabling ways. A sign was hung on the offending door: "Please Make Sure I Close!" But it disappeared in only a few days, probably removed by one of the custodians instructed to keep doorglass free of posters. Fabulous. Another sign was hung: "Please Close Me, Dammit." This one remained up for somewhat longer, but it was mostly ignored. After so many years of being able to depend on the closing of an external door at Williams, the seniors of Chadbourne found it unbearably hard to remember that this particular door was bound for betrayal, a Judas in their midst, a soldier with a coughing fit curled up in the Trojan Horse.
We called B&G, of course. We told them of our plight. They came and "fixed" it. Twice. Both times, the door was back to its rebellious, rooster-like ways in a matter of a day. This went on for months.
We wished there had been a way to put ourselves out of our misery.
The Last Chapter: Buzzer Disabling Comes to Willipedia
In the fall of 2005, a student inspired by other "Door Mischief" articles, wrote an article on Willipedia titled "How to Disable the Buzzing of A Propped Door." It contained advice that students in any number of buzzer-related predicaments could have used towards the common weal . . . or evil, I suppose.
The article remained in place a goodly time, but about three months and hundreds of hits later its proud existence was cut short when Jean Thorndike, director of Security, contacted Evan Miller '06, founder of Willipedia and head of the Willipedia board with a request to have a frank chat about the article, about which she had grown concerned.
Though a fan of the article, in the course of this discussion Evan was persuaded that the article would have to go, and that Jean had made assurances that students with good reason to have a door disabled could have it done so by the above-board channels that are currently listed in this article.
And so we, who know the buzzer and its dread history imtimately, watch and wait. Is this the beginning of a new era, ushering in new cooperation between the forces of Order and the members of their protectorate, in which the pressing concerns of safety, reasonable access, and sleep will be balanced? Or are we returned to the Dark Ages, when a herald of door buzzers will sound again through the Purple Valley and, deprived of the wisdom of generations past, the people will wait for a messiah to divine again the secret of door buzzer disabling?