How many people have keys and access to your on-campus residence?
Home is where the heart is, but can the same be said about your privacy? While not everyone is allowed to enter your on-campus housing, you aren’t the only one with a key and a right to use it. When asked who she thought had the authority to enter her dorm room, freshman Marissa Lewis responded, “I don’t know much. I just assume that it is my RA and the people in charge.” On the contrary, junior Maria Jackson said, “As long as they aren’t cutting into my nap time, I really don’t care.” While there were assumptions and indifference to be found, nobody seemed to know the rules for certain.
Florida Gulf Coast University’s Housing and Resident Life essentially acts as a landlord to its tenants, and they are bound by a lease agreement and community guidebook. The rules that are outlined in these documents were drafted to resemble Florida Statutes and laws. Housing is the only department that possesses unit keys, aside from the University police. Those keys can be used by a select few in the event of an emergency, service request, suspected policy violation or with 24 hours notice.
Dr. Brian Fisher has been an FGCU employee for eight years and serves as the director of University Housing and Resident Life. He said he believes in the importance of respecting students’ privacy and said entrance should only be made for justifi able reasons. “If were going in and out of dorm rooms that is going to be a quick source of frustration and complaints from students, and rightfully so,” Fisher said.
The only time maintenance staff members are allowed to enter a dorm is to fulfi ll work orders, to perform preventative maintenance or to respond to an emergency.
If a resident assistant feels the need to enter a dorm room, they must fi rst try to establish contact with the resident. Even after contact is made, an RA cannot go beyond the door without fi rst receiving permission from a full-time housing staff member.
“All of our rules are for professionalism and privacy with our residents. We never key into their room unannounced without our supervisor’s permission, we simply aren’t allowed to and we can be disciplined for that.” Tyler Wilson , a senior with two years of RA experience said.
Housing staff is also responsible for conducting room searches that usually occur as the result of a conduct violation, emergency situation, or evidence pointing towards the use of illegal drugs. While university police may hold a warrant and are always present for searches, they are not responsible for conducting them. The goal of having offi cers present is to support the Residence Life staff with added security and legal assistance.
Anyone who lives on campus will experience a room inspection two times every semester. Fisher said, “I think a lot of students’ perception of health and safety inspections is that we’re there to kind of spy on their behavior, and really the main purpose is to check for fire safety violation.” Freshman Cydney Vitale said “[Inspections are] to make sure you aren’t hiding any drugs and that there aren’t any fire hazards in your room.” No matter the viewpoint, a fire would be devastating in the close quarters environment that students occupy. Staff members have previously encountered smoke detectors with circuits that were intentionally cut and sprinklers with damage from a resident using it to hang things.
While the housing department is diligent about upholding its responsibilities and the rights of students, no system is perfect. Freshman Meagan Vanderbeck experienced a maintenance worker walking into her dorm during a shower. She said, “…I thought he would leave, but he said it was OK so I just shut my bathroom door.”
In certain situations the line between what is permitted can become blurred. Maybe a resident goes out and forgets to turn off their alarm, leaving an annoyance for surrounding neighbors.
The school has created a set of guidelines in order to protect our privacy, and infringing on those rights can lead to the possible probation or termination of a staff member. Issues are always bound to surface, but students can rest assured that their personal freedoms are being preserved.