Some Students Question Effectiveness of Room Checks

Trisha McCauley | The PHOENIXAlcohol bottles are one of the violations RAs look for during room inspections.

Once per semester, students living in Loyola residence halls must undergo mandatory health and safety checks that are conducted to ensure students are following university policy. But with prior notice required and laid-back approaches taken, the effectiveness of these inspections can be questionable.

In each residence hall, two resident assistants (RAs) perform an inspection of every dorm room to make sure each is upholding Loyola’s Community Standards.

Page 28 of the Community Standards explains the expectations for students living in residence halls.

“Students are expected to keep residence hall rooms and public areas in a clean and safe condition at all times,” the policy states. “Department of Residence Life staff members conduct periodic inspections of all student rooms and community spaces in the residence halls. Whenever possible, notice is provided to students in advance of formal inspections.”

“The priority [of health and safety checks] is on safety and security,” said Ashley Williams, the assistant director of housing operations for Loyola’s Department of Residence Life.

Residents must be notified about inspections at least 48 hours in advance. Former San Francisco Hall RA Krystian Chalupczak said the advance notice means some students will get away with violations.

“It’s a visual inspection … So you’re just scanning the room. That’s it. We can’t snoop through your things,” the 21-year-old senior said.

Prohibited items found during inspections will be confiscated, according to the Community Standards.

Prohibited items include alcohol, drugs and dangerous weapons, but in traditional and suite-style dorms, they also include prohibited furniture and appliances that are fire hazards — hot plates, toasters, electric grills, ovens, fridges larger than 4.2 cubic feet and candles, according to the Community Standards.

The reason for the prior notice is to respect students’ privacy, according to Williams.

“We never want to make it seem like we are intrusive,” Williams said.

Loyola first-year Parker Light said he thinks the inspections are not effective.

“Not only do they give you notice, but they send you an email that says ‘Hey … if you have any of this stuff, make sure it’s not in your room,’” said the 18-year-old undecided major.

Light added that he and many of his friends had time to hide prohibited items they owned due to the prior notice. He thinks that a majority of first-year students violate the school policy in some way, and they only get away with it because they know when the checks will happen.

Chalupczak said he acknowledges that some students may get away with hiding violations due to prior notice, but he thinks respecting students’ privacy and maturity is more important.

“Let’s say they do drink [in a room and are hiding it]; we’re all adults when we get to college. We can make our own choices,” said Chalupczak, a neuroscience and biology double major. “There’s nothing [that] we can do.”

First-year Annie Sherwood said she thinks the prior notice makes room checks ineffective.

“If [residents] get notified earlier, then if they have any problems they can easily hide [those violations] in … a friend’s room,” the 19-year-old journalism major said. “I mean, [the RAs are] not really looking into our drawers and things, so it’s pretty easy for people to hide things.”

Loyola junior Derek Larsen was an RA in San Francisco Hall during the fall 2015 semester. He said the inspections he performed were fairly routine, often averaging a minute and a half.

“The health and safety inspections aren’t too severe,” the 20-year-old said. “We essentially didn’t look for unfair policy violations, so to say, [we were]just making sure people weren’t living … grossly.”

Some conditions for cleanliness and safety include properly storing or disposing of food, preventing garbage cans from overflowing, keeping the floors clean, making sure flags or posters do not cover more than 20 percent of any surface, ensuring that fire alarms and smoke detectors function and keeping electrical outlets from becoming overcrowded.

Larsen explained that during inspections he and his co-RA would make sure there were no noticeable policy violations in a room, but that if alcohol or drug paraphernalia, such as empty bottles or a marijuana bong, was spotted, he said they would document it.

Only a few rooms that Larsen inspected had to be reported due to some empty liquor bottles in the trash, but he said he was fairly lenient with his room checks.

“My main instincts were to check the fire alarm [and] make sure there was nothing gross on the counters, and that was good enough for me,” Larsen said.

Chalupczak said the inspections would improve if the school provides more clarity on why certain policies exist.

“It’s not that [inspections] are done wrong, it’s that sometimes they don’t necessarily … explain why certain things aren’t allowed,” said Chalupczak.

For example, Chalupczak thinks that the policy regarding alcohol and drug paraphernalia could be clearer. While empty bottles are not allowed as vases for flowers, he explained, posters with beer company logos or a hip hop poster with the artist pictured smoking marijuana are not considered violations. Chalupczak said he thinks students could find the rules confusing and unfair.

Residence Life’s Williams said she is creating a report based on inspections during the fall 2016 semester that will document trends of different violations and concerns in order to see how Residence Life can better educate students on how they can ensure their rooms comply with standards.

Ray Tennison, the associate director of Residence Life, said he thinks students who dislike health and safety checks fail to see their positive aspects.

“[This process of inspections is] often misconstrued that we’re out to get students or we are searching for something,” Tennison said. “But, in fact, I would hope students would see it as a benefit of living on campus … [We’re] trying to solve problems for them before they become problems.”

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