Along with many areas across campus, the student handbook received a few updates this summer. The most notable of these updates is a change of wording in the room search policy.
AU’s updated room search policy reads, “The university reserves the right to inspect students’ rooms for damage or to enter to make repairs. The university also reserves the right to enter students’ rooms or conduct randomized room searches, given reasonable cause, to ensure adherence to university policies or to protect the health and safety of the residents.”
Although this policy appears to repeat the room search policies of the past, there is one important addition: “or conduct randomized room searches.”
Maggie Platt, director of Residence Life and student conduct, explained, “We decided to add that phrase for clarity so that students have a better understanding of what may happen when there is reason to believe there is a widespread health or safety concern or widespread misconduct.”
Platt explained that the Department of Residence Life and Student Conduct is dedicated to the concept of “reasonable cause” when it comes to conducting room searches; whims and baseless suspicions are not reason enough for a room search.
Dean of Students Chris Luekenga further explained the recent policy change.
“The application of the room entry policy will be thoughtful and provide fairness while holding students accountable for policy violations that may harm or negatively affect individuals or the campus community, or be in violation of state and federal laws,” he said.
Luekenga noted that this policy was carefully updated with the well-being of students in mind.
“It is the desire of the dean of students to provide as much due process and fairness as possible,” he explained. “Room entries remain an option with probable cause of alleged conduct violation, safety concerns or health issues, as well as for maintenance and repairs.”
Luekenga explained that this policy protects students in a way that attempts to minimize negative or inconvenient effects.
“This benefits the entire campus community as we strive to provide a safe and healthy environment for all members,” he said. “So-called ‘random room searches,’ meaning at a whim or without cause, will not be taking place.”
Mckala Lindsey, former resident of Myers Hall, expressed concern about this policy change in light of last year’s room searches.
“‘Randomized’ and ‘reasonable cause’ do not belong together in a sentence,” said Lindsey. “If the searches are based solely on reasonable cause, how can it be random?”
Lindsey expressed that rules are important to the functioning of an institution, but this policy may be seen as an invasion of privacy.
“Rules are important, she explained. “We need rules. It’s worrisome to know that people can just walk in your room ‘randomly’ and go through your things.”
According to Lindsey, this affected many students in her dorm last year.
“That’s the part that frustrates a lot of students,” she said. “They could be following all of the rules to a T, yet people they don’t even know have the right to go through all of their belongings to make sure that they are following those rules.”
Lindsey said that, although she disagrees with the policy, she was glad that the update added clarity.
“It was not really the room searches themselves that were the problem,” she said. “Honestly, it was the fact that students felt so blindsided by it.”
Lindsey believes that there is still room for improvement within the room search policy.
“I understand the purpose,” she reiterated. “I understand why they have added to this policy; it’s just there’s more at play than policy—it’s people’s privacy.”