ResLife finds dirt, though more swept under rug

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Almost a quarter of rooms inspected by University staff this semester were found to have health and safety violations.

The inspections, directed by the Office of Residential Life, were conducted in 830 rooms from Feb. 10 to 12, with 200 rooms receiving citations for offenses including illegal extension cords, possession of candles and excessive trash.

Coupled with inspections from last October and November, the office has inspected a total of 1,534 rooms, according to statistics from ResLife. Of all rooms inspected this academic year, 18.5 percent received violation notices.

Almost 26 percent of the recorded violations – not including alcohol- and drug-related infractions – involved illegal power strips and extension cords. The second most commonly recorded violation was for “excessive wall decorations,” which accounted for a little over 20 percent of the total violations. Other common violations were blocked exits and damaged or obstructed fire safety equipment.

The number of violations received in different residence halls varied widely, even for similar dorms. For example, during the October inspections, 22 percent of rooms visited in Vartan Gregorian Quadrangle B received violations, while only 1.8 percent of those visited in Quad A did, according to the ResLife data.

Of all dorms inspected this year, Marcy Hall was the only one that did not have a single room with a violation.

A total of five notices were given for “evidence of pets,” though that does not mean inspectors necessarily found hordes of furry creatures running around residence halls. According to Richard Hilton, assistant director for operations for ResLife, having cat food visible in your room counts as evidence of pets.

Not all rooms in inspected dorms were visited, said Thomas Forsberg, associate director of Housing and Residential Life. “We inspect as much as we can with the resources we have,” he said, adding that the number of staff volunteers determines how many inspections are done. Volunteers receive brief training before beginning inspections, he said. The office tries to run four to six rounds of inspections per academic year.

According to violation notices that were handed out, rooms of students guilty of rule infractions were candidates to be re-inspected between Feb. 18 and 20, though Hilton said a re-inspection was not guaranteed.

Michael Caron ’12 and his roommate received a violation for excessive wall decorations in their Keeney Quadrangle double – but complied with the notice’s instructions. “We scaled it back,” Caron said, though he added that the room was never re-inspected.

Adrian Leanza ’11, who lives in Diman Hall, said an inspector was only in his room for about 20 seconds and failed to notice visible violations because the room was “messy.”

Though “alcohol, illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia” are among the violations listed on the inspection notice, Hilton said he had not yet compiled the data on these violations. Alcohol is only considered a violation if the inhabitant is under 21, and Hilton has not yet checked dates of birth for occupants of these rooms, he said.

Forsberg said while illegal substance violations are recorded, they are “not the reason” for the inspections, emphasizing that health and safety are ResLife’s main concerns.

Some students said they were unsure how effective the inspections were.

“If you’re going to have those issues in your room, you won’t be deterred by one inspection throughout the year,” Adam Kiki-Charles ’11 said. Instead, an inspection “makes people aware of what they shouldn’t have,” he added.

Spencer McAndrews ’12 said she received a notice for an improper extension cord, but that “a lot of people put stuff away” in preparation for the inspections, which were announced via e-mail.

According to Forsberg, ResLife has recently discussed lengthening the range of days in which inspections will be carried out to discourage quick fixes.

“Our goal isn’t to catch, it’s to ensure that people are safe,” he said.