In the first few weeks of the school year, students who live off-campus have been unpleasantly surprised to find out that their ID cards no longer allow them access to  dorms and other campus housing spaces due to a change in the Rights and Responsibilities handbook. In an email to the Justice, Director of Community Living Tim Touchette explained, “The residents who pay to live on campus have started to raise concerns that students who do not live in the halls spend a lot of time in the buildings, using common spaces, lounges and study areas. These spaces are supposed to be reserved exclusively for residential students as referenced by the [Rights and Responsibilities] policy.”

This board finds this change to be troubling for several reasons. Students were never formally informed of this change, and some had access to campus dorms longer than others. More importantly, not allowing undergraduate students who choose to live off — campus to access dorms and their common spaces in them creates a double standard and a hierarchy of students based on if they pay for access for certain shared spaces or not. Students who are not on a meal plan are still allowed to sit in dining halls across campus even if they do not buy anything. Not paying for a certain service should not exclude a student from access to certain shared spaces.

Many clubs meet in common areas in dorms, such as Ridgewood  Commons, the dance studio and common rooms in the Village. In addition, those spaces are available for students to use to study and congregate. When card access to these shared spaces within dorms is not available to students who choose to live off-campus, it is harder for them to participate in clubs, events and other important facets of campus life that make them feel included.

In his email, Touchette said, “Regulating non-residential students’ access to the halls is part of our commitment to providing a safe and secure living environment for our residential students ... This is a fairly common practice at most institutions and is one that will increase the security of our residential facilities.” If there are valid public safety concerns, it is important for the school to address them. However, it does seem unlikely that only blocking access to students who live off-campus are cause for those concerns. Rather, if the school is going to take the route of blocking access to some students, they should limit access to dorms only to those who live within those facilities.

There is nothing wrong with changing policies in the name of true public safety, but when an access policy changes in a way that effects a significant population of students, it should at the very least be announced in a public manner and should be applied in a more uniform way.