Residence Life begins spring health and safety inspections

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

In the past week, flyers have been posted around campus titled, “Health & Safeties are coming! Do you know your rights?” Attributed to Instagram page “bcreslifegestapo,” the posters refer to page 85 of Viking Code, which explains the function of health and safety inspections, lists examples of health and safety violations and discusses the room search process. The scheduled dates for health and safety inspections are quickly approaching. As an email sent out by Residence Life on Feb. 25 explained, they will be conducted throughout the week of Feb. 28 through Mar. 6.

According to Lindsay Norman, director of Residence Life, the main purpose of health and safety checks is fairly simple. They are conducted in order to ensure the health and safety of residents.

“We host an environment where we have a bunch of people living in close quarters, and that brings some major implications of health,” Norman said. “If you are sharing an area with others, we need to make sure you’re all making good choices as it relates to health. We have to make sure people aren’t creating environments that are unsafe. We’re making sure that things aren’t happening in those spaces that poses a danger to life, or safety or health of others.”

Inspections are planned by area coordinators, who set their schedules for each of their two residential areas. They usually happen twice per semester, but could occur more frequently in alternative areas that have kitchens or bathrooms.

“Five or six people could be using a kitchen in a townhouse, so we need to make sure that it’s clean enough, because people are going to be preparing and storing food there,” Norman explained.

Health and safety inspections are conducted by two RAs, generally both of whom belong to the residential area. As junior Timothy Wooley, RA for the first floor of Clara, explained, the checks are mainly to ensure that all students are complying with residential guidelines set out in Viking Code.

“They are for the residents’ health and safety,” Wooley said. “We want students to have clean floors so they can evacuate in case of a fire. It’s also to be sure that there’s nothing dangerous in the room, nothing that would cause danger to residents.”

According to Wooley, the searching abilities for RAs are fairly limited. They are not allowed to check their own room. Instead, the head resident for the residential area has that responsibility. If a problem arises when conducting a check of students’ rooms, RAs contact their head resident or their area coordinator. As Norman further discussed, RAs have little authority to invade students’ privacy of their own accord. While maintenance issues or credible allegations of a serious policy violation can result in unscheduled visits from Residence Life staff, RAs only have the power to look around the room.

“We train our RAs that they can’t touch students’ belongings,” Norman explained. “We’re only looking around. If we need to see a plug or something, we could move a bedspread. But we shouldn’t be opening closets, we should never be opening a drawer. We should leave the room untouched. Those are the parameters RAs get in training.”

Norman claimed that Residence Life works to ensure that students’ rights to privacy are not abridged. She explained that the intersection of privacy and safety can often necessitate compromise, but at the end of the day Residence Life’s main goal is to protect students.

“I don’t want students to feel like we’re invading their privacy,” Norman said. “I think we should try to meet in the middle. I think we should work to make sure that we have safe places to live, because ultimately at the end of the day I’m responsible for on-campus housing. But also, at the end of the day, you still have rights as a student.”

Dean of Students Lindsey Taylor echoed these sentiments. She claims that the checks are the most efficient and simple way to sustain safety standards for all of the hundreds of Berry students that live on campus.

“It’s a practical answer,” Taylor said. “When you have 1,800 people living together, it is truly what it says it is. It’s to make sure living conditions are healthy, and they’re safe.”

Taylor understands concerns of privacy. However, she also said that Berry staff and administration work as hard as possible to protect students from safety issues and privacy violations.

“I respect that students feel like it violates privacy,” Taylor said. “While on the one hand, I respect that, and admire that, on the other hand, I think that if we do our job well, we should not be violating that much of students’ privacy.”

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