Dorm Room Policies Change

Athletic Campus, UVM. First year and second year students residing in UVM’s residential dormitories are currently experiencing seemingly minor changes in housing policies that are resulting in complaints. Resident Advisors, (RAs) have been instructed to more carefully monitor their residents which now includes random searches into students’ rooms with a certain quota of searches to be completed per building.

The searches are not completely unannounced – RAs are expected to give a twenty-four hour notice of when the inspection will occur.

While it is generally understood that there are certain housing rules that all students must comply with including no smoking of any sorts or alcohol consumption for those underage in the dormitories regardless of whether it is in a confined room or not, many students do in fact manage to violate these rules. Because of this, UVM has felt the need to re-enforce these rules more severely. The university insists that these efforts are indeed only in the best interest of the students and more specifically those students who have come to the university to study and not party.

All students are required to sign UVM’s official residential agreement policy which is basically a contract in which a student agrees to comply with. The policy is written in a basic and clear language, however there does not appear to be any recent amendments to address the new searches that are required of RAs and residents.

This lack of clear change in policy has also frustrated students further and left them wondering what else is left unsaid or in very fine writing. Jen P., an on-campus junior said, “I didn’t really hear about changes in housing rules with the new searches, so I wonder what else changed that I didn’t hear about.”

A representative of the university commented and said that these searches are “designed to protect the students.” This is primarily due to the fact that in recent years there have been several incidents associated with fire detectors and alarms due to a lack of supervision.

First year students are especially susceptible to this adjustment because they are more likely to be unaware of the rules, regulations and more importantly the consequences that follow. Second year students are extremely frustrated due to the change and voice resentment and a sense of lost freedom, however RAs and the residential life are asking students to keep in mind that the university is after their best interest only.

Certain RAs say that they are not out to ‘get’ the residents. One junior RA on Trinity Campus said, “I am what they call a nice RA, but I won’t get anyone in trouble if they are not harming or disturbing anyone, which is the same way all RAs feel – we are here to help our fellow residents, we live with them, we don’t want to make things hard for anyone at all.”

He also added that “training sessions have increased in intensity and are more aimed at making sure RAs are prepared to help the students and protect them from getting in trouble.”

This RA further commented by saying, “now there are police all over the dorms because they can be, it is a public university, and students don’t like that. If we are doing the searches it is better than a cop who would actually arrest kids – Burlington cops are really fierce this year.” This is very true, Burlington police have certainly set a serious tone for students on- and off- campus and throughout the community of zero tolerance. Students in dorms are just as capable of receiving noise violations as students off campus.

In terms of the intensity of the searches and what the RAs are looking for, a senior RA on Redstone said, “We don’t go through people’s sock drawers we just come in, with notice, to make sure that everything is ok- and so far none of my residents have had a problem with it.” The RAs interviewed certainly assured students that no one is on a power trip and simply just satisfying a residential life requirement because they have to.

While all UVM students residing in dorms are entitled to what Residential Life refers to as a Student Bill of Rights, which includes certain rights as the right to not be disturbed and to be able to sleep peacefully, rights about privacy are not addressed in the short list which can be found on UVM’s Residential Life website.

One sophomore on Redstone, Emma, commented that, “while these changes aren’t the best, I would much rather have an RA, who knows my name that I am on pretty good terms with come through my room than some policeman or bigger authority – RAs were all regular students once so it’s ok.” A final word of advice from the RAs who cared to comment, “residents know not to do things that are blatantly going to bring attention, and if they do, it is addressed better by an RA than some cop who is out to get students at UVM.”