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Renovated in 2008 after the original building was demolished, Frear Hall boasts amenities that many of the university’s other dorms don’t have: controlled air conditioning, private bathrooms, a game room with a pool table and flat-screen TVs.
It’s also the only UH dorm with security cameras.
But until Wednesday, the camera system wasn’t working. And students living in the building didn’t even know.
“I see them there and think that they’re there for security purposes,” said Alyssa Peric, a senior majoring in chemistry who’s lived in the building for three years. “I definitely wish I would’ve known that they weren’t working.”
The system is back up and recording — Civil Beat contacted university officials about the problem last week; it was partially fixed Wednesday.
But some of the cameras are still being repaired. University officials would not specify how many cameras still need to be fixed nor how much the repairs are costing.
A spokeswoman for Student Housing Services did tell Civil Beat that funding for the ongoing repair and maintenance of the cameras is coming from the office’s operational budget.
“Student Housing Services is dedicated to the safety of our residents,” the agency wrote in a statement emailed to Civil Beat in response to a request to speak with someone about the situation. “The camera system at Frear is just one part of a multi-tiered approach to meeting our students’ needs.”
University officials weren’t available for further comment until next week, Dyan Kleckner, the university spokeswoman, said.
Exactly when the security system stopped working is unclear, but it was last November that UH staff realized the cameras weren’t recording anything.
The issue stemmed from a hard drive failure, according to the email. When it upgraded the hard drive, the university had to update the camera’s software.
But the software update posed additional problems: the cameras and the main system wouldn’t connect.
A number of Frear Hall residents told Civil Beat Thursday that the broken camera system is just one defect among many that they’ve experienced while living in the building. Students cited ongoing problems with the building’s front door, trash chutes and elevators.
Frear residents said they were especially frustrated because they pay extra to live in the dorm. In Frear, it costs $6,619 per school year to live in a two-bedroom, four-person suite — the cheapest option available.
It costs $5,400 to live in the same type of room in Gateway House, a nearby dorm that reopened last August after a renovation.
“I pay for the facilities,” said Corina Jacobson, a senior from California who majors in Japanese and has lived in Frear for two years. “I’m going to pay this off over time ‘cause I have loans. It just sucks that all this wasted money is going in.”
Jacobson said that the cameras might have come in handy on the numerous occasions that rowdy, ostensibly drunk students pulled the fire alarms for fun last semester, forcing all residents in the building to evacuate — often in the middle of the night.
“Every time they (UH staff) are completely incapable of finding out who did it,” she said. “If there were security cameras, maybe they’d find out.”
But pranks aren’t the only incidents that the broken cameras might have resolved.
Safety is a major concern on campus. Although students said they generally feel safe living in Frear, they said it’s fairly easy for a stranger to enter the building.
Residents need to swipe an ID card to get into the building but often let anyone near the doorway inside.
Sophomore Max Silver, a math major, told Civil Beat he recently saw a man who clearly wasn’t a student wandering in the halls.
And other than resident assistants, Frear doesn’t have any staff who monitor the building, Silver said. The dorm houses about 810 residents.
UH officials didn’t say whether any serious disturbances occurred in Frear Hall during the time that the cameras were broken, but criminal activity at the UH’s Manoa campus has been on the rise in recent years, according to the university’s 2012 Annual Security Report.
The number of forcible sex, aggravated assault and robbery offenses in dorms or other residential facilities increased between 2009 and 2011, the report shows.
“I know things can always happen, and I know how easy it is for any friend or student to come in and be here,” Peric said. “There’s always a ruckus going on.”