In response to student concerns about recent interactions with Residential Education and Housing (ResEd) staff, specifically walkthroughs by staff in group houses, Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) sophomore class representative Hayden Young has introduced a resolution to affirm students’ right to privacy in their rooms. The resolution references page 92 of the Student Handbook, which states that “Lawrence University guarantees the students’ right of privacy” and that while Lawrence “reserves the right to inspect student rooms…and to enter student rooms to perform routine maintenance functions” the university should ensure that “when possible, students will be notified in advance of such inspections.” The resolution also states that LUCC supports this right to privacy and that LUCC has received reports of officials entering spaces without advance notification or consent of the students and at unreasonable hours.
The resolution requests that university officials abide by these regulations, that the President’s office and Office of Student Life reaffirm this right to privacy as well as that the Office of Student Life ensure that university officials who conduct these interactions notify students beforehand, refrain from entering rooms in non-emergency situations without prior consent and only enter rooms in these non-emergency situations at a reasonable hour of the day.
At the LUCC General Council meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, Young’s resolution passed with 13 yes votes, zero no votes and one abstain. Although a resolution serves as more of a statement instead of concrete legislation, Young is hoping to put together a piece of legislation about the issue in the future.
Young said that, as a member of the Residence Life Committee, he talked to two Residence Life Managers (RLMs) of group houses who said that they had experienced housing staff conducting walkthroughs of their buildings as late as 10:30 or 11 p.m., as well as someone who lives in one of the lofts who experienced a walkthrough as they were alone in the loft and getting out of the shower. He also referenced first-year class representative Jasmin McGee’s story of experiencing a room check as she was in bed without enough prior warning. He said that these stories prompted him to propose this resolution.
“It’s just things like that that we’re hoping to prevent,” Young said.
Young pointed out that if you live in an apartment, your landlord has rules about when they can and cannot enter rooms and feels that there should be similar rules to protect the privacy of students.
Notably, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Alex Heaton and Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, who typically abstain from resolutions concerning student life, voted yes on Young’s resolution. Heaton said that the resolution addressed the concerns he had heard at previous meetings.
“It’s important that students feel comfortable in their dorms and feel like their privacy is respected,” Heaton said. “The resolution seemed like a good attempt to communicate and emphasize that fact.”
Del Toro echoed Heaton’s sentiments about the resolution.
Sophomore Class Representative Mohamed Khalil Ben Nasr is glad the resolution passed and hopes that this resolution improves the housing situation for students in the future.
“I truly hope that the administration is responsive to this legislation and will take the necessary steps to implement this resolution as soon as possible,” sad Ben Nasr.
Vice President for Student Life Chris Clarke responded to the resolution.
“These necessary administrative functions…should be carried out respectfully and with the least possible disruption to students’ daily lives and routines,” Clarke said. “We want to acknowledge and offer our apologies that some recent check-ins were conducted at late hours and caught students off guard. We…have amended our internal procedures – including the timing and frequency of rounds at the smaller houses as well as enhacing communication efforts – to avoid disquieting interruptions going forward.”
Clarke added that the goal of ResEd is to provide a safe, supportive, inclusive and secure environment and that the goal of the check-ins was to increase the visibility and approachability of staff. He encouraged students with concerns to reach out to ResEd and the Office of Student Life.