Getting rid of reception desks doesn't make buildings safer or more welcoming

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Utrecht University is planning on closing eight reception desks with the goal to make buildings safer and extend the amount of services offered to students and employees. Carina van der Veen works at the Buys Ballot building, where the reception desk was done away with a few years ago. She argues that the experiment hasn't been as successful as claimed. 

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I was surprised to read the article about the plans to shut down reception desks in eight UU buildings. Especially the two parts in which the director of the Facility Service Centre (FSC), Edie Verzendaal, explains the decision:

  • "According to Verzendaal, the Faculty of Science has already implemented this change in the Buys Ballot building and the first experiences are positive. The reception desk at the Buys Ballot building has been closed in order to employ more surveillance personnel to walk around the building".
  • "We are convinced that this plan will make the buildings safer and more welcoming."

I wonder how Mr. Verzendaal knows that the experiences at the Buys Ballot building (BBB) are positive? In 2017, there was a loud protest against the closure of the reception desk, for which the users of the building have never been consulted, at least not to my knowledge. 

Closing the reception desk serves no-one. Here are some of the reasons why: 

1.       We don't have an address anymore. I cannot receive visitors at my address, they must figure out how to get to the BBB. 

2.       Neither does the building work as a post address. Deliveries sent to Princetonplein 5 are often delayed, gone, or sent back. 

3.       Parcel delivery services have left packages in the hallway more than once. Sometimes they just hand the packages to random students or employees, as there is no clear point of contact in the building. 

4.       The door, always closed, was meant to increase our safety, but in reality there are people hanging by the door the whole day, just waiting for the right moment to walk in behind someone. Even on weekends we see people doing that. The door's locking system is also faulty: it remains open for a whole minute, giving intruders an opportunity to sneak in.

5.       The packages we send often lie unattended at the building's hallway. Literally anyone can take them. 

6.       When we want to send a big parcel somewhere, we have to do it through the Caroline Bleeker building. Before the change, drivers would simply announce themselves at the reception desk and everything would be fine. Now they just stand in an empty building without a point of contact. Using the phone seems to be a barrier for the (often Eastern European) drivers.

7.       The same goes for receiving large packages: no point of contact. 

8.       Getting keys or opening classrooms must be done through the Koningsberger building now. 

9.       Students can't comprehend why they can go to the BBB, but they're not allowed to enter through the front door. 

Most of these points refer to issues faced by employees dealing with logistics, mail, and visitors - so, mostly secretaries and technicians. The problems we had anticipated have therefore come true and nothing has gotten any better. We now have a lot of extra work and we must always think about how to avoid problems. As for security, the building isn't safer at all: in fact, it has been broken into twice in 2018. And how on Earth is a building without a reception desk more welcoming? 

Cherish the receptions and realize that they ensure that an entire building runs smoothly!

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