Dorm inspectors find 30 percent violate rules

Friday, March 7, 2008

As the seasons slowly change on College Hill, certain unmistakable signs of spring emerge: warmer temperatures, occasional rain showers – and the second round of housing inspections.

In the past week, health and safety inspectors from the Office of Residential Life have been visiting dormitories around campus, including Vartan Gregorian Quadrangle A and B, Hegeman, Barbour, Caswell, Emery, Minden, Morriss and Slater halls, said Richard Hilton, ResLife’s assistant director for operations.

Some dorms are inspected during the fall rounds, while the rest are inspected in the spring. Though inspections have not been completed on all the dorms reviewed in the spring semester, the current statistics indicate that inspectors found violations in about 30 percent of the rooms they have visited this semester, with 178 violations found thus far.

Last semester, about 16 percent of rooms inspected had violations, according to statistics from ResLife.

A ResLife administrator attributed the difference in the number of violations to the difference in class year of inspected residents. Most freshmen-dominated residential halls, such as the rooms in Keeney Quadrangle, were inspected in the fall, while many of the dormitories visited this semester house mostly sophomores and juniors, said Associate Director of Housing and Residential Life Thomas Forsberg. Freshmen rooms usually have a lower number of violations, he said, citing their greater attention to the rules posted on a ResLife Web site.

“My instinct is that Brown undergraduates read the Web site more rigorously before they get here than when they are here,” Forsberg said.

The most common violation this semester involved unapproved power strips or extension cords, which were found in 42 rooms. Thirty-four rooms were cited for excessive wall decorations, and inspectors found 11 counts of excessive trash.

But these numbers may not be an accurate depiction of the condition in residential halls. Students interviewed by The Herald said they thought ResLife’s inspectors were not intent on catching violations and that it was easy to avoid getting one.

Adam Siegel ’09 said he saw the inspection process as “an exercise in futility” that the University performs for insurance purposes. “Brown is pretty lenient in allowing us to do whatever we want in the dorms,” Siegel said.

Students also said officials seemed less likely to do a thorough inspection if a student was still in the room and consequently missed obvious violations. “It was a little awkward from the get-go,” Crow Norlander ’10 said. “I think I kind of intimidated them by being here.”

Forsberg said the primary goal of the inspections isn’t necessarily finding every violation in residence halls. “The point of this is to make sure everyone’s living safely,” he said. Students are notified that their hall is being inspected in advance with a “bulk e-mail,” and inspectors conduct a “plain-sight” evaluation of the rooms, in which they enter the rooms and look only for violations immediately visible to the eye.

Nate Johnson ’10 said he had no problems with the inspection process. “I’m not really upset about the fact that they inspect rooms. It’s their property,” he said.

Other students such as Corrie Tan ’10 said they weren’t against the inspections, but they did view some rules, like those about candles, as a “little much”.

The candle regulations, which stipulate a $100 fine per individual candle, “reflect(s)Residential Life policies of the time,” Forsberg said. The concerns about candles followed a series of tragic incidents with fire both around the nation and in Providence, he said.

“We don’t want anybody to die,” Forsberg added.

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