Toward the end of the fall semester, AU instituted random room searches throughout the residence halls. The searches began following frequent suspicion of illegal substances being kept in dorm rooms.
“There were only two rounds of random room searches conducted last semester,” said Maggie Platt, director of residence life and student conduct for AU. “But I think rumors have made students believe there were many more than that.”
Much to the dismay of students, there was no warning that the investigations would be conducted. Anything found in the process of the search was confiscated and either thrown away, locked in a safe or turned over to AUPD.
“In each of those instances, resident directors searched approximately 5 percent of the rooms in each residence hall,” said Platt. “We chose to perform these searches in order to protect our students and the type of safe, Christ-centered learning environment that we desire for our campus.”
Students who were found in violation of university policy faced a variety of punishments ranging from a written warning to a disciplinary meeting with university officials. In some of the more extreme cases, students were asked to leave AU. Even though two security sweeps were performed in the fall, Platt did not rule out the possibility of more searches in the future.
“I hope with all of my heart that we do not have to continue these searches,” Platt added. “I love AU and our students, and it breaks my heart that the level of conduct cases last semester resulted in random room searches.
“As we told students during the all-hall meetings on the first day of the semester, we will continue this process if there are more suspicions of illegal activity,” said Platt. “However, my hope is that knowledge of these searches will provide enough accountability that students will choose to honor our community and not bring these items onto campus.”
The searches were supposed to be performed by RDs only, who were trained by the police department this summer on legal search and seizure. However, one student whose room was searched reported that his resident assistant was also involved.
According to Platt, RAs were instructed to remain in the hallways during searches in order to answer any questions that their residents might have, but they were not supposed to be involved in the search.
The same student, who has requested to remain anonymous, said that his room was searched extensively, including through several storage bins that contained personal items.
A second anonymous student said that his room was searched twice in the same day even though nothing was found either time. His RD required that all personal items be searched, which this student felt was a violation of his personal privacy.
Per the student contracts signed upon moving in, the university claims to be within its rights to randomly search residence halls. However, the room search policy states that rooms can only be searched when there is a reasonable suspicion of misconduct.
As Platt said, the stark increase in conduct cases among students this year lead to the university beginning random room searches. Marijuana has been a key issue that the school is looking to correct.
Platt feels that the room searches from the fall semester have helped to create more accountability for the remaining residents. It is the hope of the entire department of student life that the searches won’t be necessary going forward, but they will continue to perform them until student life feels that the issue has been resolved.