Dorm inspections begin today

By
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thomas Forsberg has encountered some strange safety violations during his tenure with the Office of Residential Life, but the one that sticks out most in his memory occurred almost 10 years ago.

“We had an undergraduate disassemble his motorcycle and put it in his room ­­- gas tank and all,” said Forsberg, associate director of Housing and Residential Life.

But as ResLife prepares to begin residence hall inspections across campus this week, its assistant director for operations, Richard Hilton, said that last semester’s inspections of 704 rooms on campus uncovered 84 less surprising violations. The most common violations were for excessive wall decorations, unsafe power strips and blocked exits, which Hilton, who oversees the inspections, said was typical.

According to Hilton, the dorms that will be inspected today, Wednesday and Thursday include Barbour Hall, Graduate Center, Keeney Quadrangle, Littlefield Hall, New Pembroke 1 through 3, Perkins Hall, Slater Hall, Emery Hall and Hope College. Wayland, Harkness, Marcy, Buxton and Diman Houses will also be inspected.

Students are notified by e-mail in advance of when their residence halls will be inspected, Hilton said. Several days later, volunteer staffers from ResLife and other University departments enter each room to look for violations that involve fire safety and what Forsberg calls “life safety,” such as unsafe loft construction or pets, which may induce other residents’ allergic reactions.

When inspectors discover a violation in a room, Hilton said, they leave a slip explaining the violation and asking the resident to correct it before a subsequent inspection.

The notable exception to this policy, however, is candles, which are confiscated immediately “whether or not (they’ve) ever been lit,” Forsberg said, adding that “they’re the number one cause of residence hall fires.”

Students are fined $100 for each candle, a policy that resulted in a total of $500 during the fall

inspections.

Students expressed mixed feelings on the subject of room

inspections.

While Melissa Logan ’11 said she believes inspections are necessary for safety reasons, she added that she did not like “the idea of someone coming into my room, especially when I’m not there.” She said she would prefer having inspections only when the resident is in his or her room.

Allison Perelman ’09, whose room in Young Orchard was inspected in October, said inspectors from ResLife got “angry” when they saw that she had completely covered her walls with removable wallpaper.

Perelman said that while her roommate was cited for the violation, she was advised only that the wallpaper must be removed by the time she moves out in May. “They were concerned about it,” she said. “They kept calling it a

‘gray area.'”

“I have a sneaking suspicion that in a couple years they’ll have a specific rule against wallpaper,” Perelman added.

Stephanie Yin ’12 lives in Emery, one of the buildings to be inspected this week. Though she said she had not seen the e-mail from ResLife, which Hilton sent Feb. 6., Yin said she was not worried about the inspection and did not expect to be cited for any violations.

“I don’t know how much they can accomplish giving advance notice,” Yin said. “At the same time, it would be awful to have unannounced inspections.”

Logan agreed. “You can have things in your room and just hide them, and they’ll never know,” she said. “My roommates do.”

Forsberg acknowledged that students can easily hide prohibited items but said he hoped students would think seriously about safety rather than “see what (they) can get away with.”

“If I don’t see it, I don’t see it,” he said. “But if you engage in an unsafe thing, I hope that we don’t have anything horrible happen.”