Who’s that knocking on your door? This year, it might be your Community Advisor (CA) coming in for health and safety inspections.
CAs now inspect rooms monthly; they formerly conducted checks once in the first six weeks of fall semester and on the Saturdays when dorms closed for breaks.
The change is meant to ensure work orders are submitted for broken lights or screens, malfunctioning thermostats, missing smoke detectors, and other issues, according to Lisa Train, associate director of housing and residential life (ResLife).
“Sometimes our students seem to suffer in silence when there’s an issue in the room,” Train said. “I think if we’re coming around more consistently, we can catch that and solve that for them.”
Train says the inspections are intended to keep students safe and make end-of-year damage payments easier to manage by addressing questions of culpability while students are still on campus. Some students, however, feel the inspections invade their privacy.
ResLife generally sends out emails informing students that health and safety inspections will be occurring in the next few weeks, but individual CAs have discretion over whether to give more specific advanced warning.
“There was a slip saying we had passed the inspection just laying on my bed,” Laurel Waller ’19 said. “It was a little off-putting, knowing they had just come into the room without having received an answer.”
One student said an inspection was conducted as she slept.
“I was shocked,” Sarah Peterson ’18 said. “I didn’t know how thorough it could have been, or if I was really just sleeping like a really heavy sleeper.”
Peter Granville ’16, a head CA in Norton Residence Hall, said most first-year CAs notify residents before inspections occur.
“I have found that nearly, if not all, of the first-year CAs have given residents due notice ahead of time,” Granville said. “We are much more concerned with confronting long-term habits that are unhealthy or unsafe than trying to catch residents off guard.”
Historically, most violations have been found over breaks, with fire safety and alcohol violations as the most common issues. Fire safety and alcohol violations represent 81 percent of the documented violations this year, according to Train.
For first-time alcohol offenses, students attend a “choices and consequences” session with Mike Durham, substance abuse educator and counselor. For first-time fire safety violations, students attend an approximately 90-minute fire safety program presented by local firefighters, which was instituted in spring 2015.
Twenty-two violations were documented in the first two inspections of this year, including seven fire safety violations and 11 alcohol violations. Train said the number of violations has remained fairly consistent following the increased number of inspections, though this is the first year that ResLife has tracked specific numbers of violations in each category.
ResLife plans to have CAs inspect rooms each month except for January, as students will return from winter break halfway through the month.