EDITORIAL: Transparency required in room inspections
In a Sept. 17 email, the Department of Community Living announced that fire drills would be occurring over the two-week period following the email. During these drills, the City of Waltham’s Fire Marshall will be asking DCL staff to enable them to “enter rooms at random,” and if any prohibited items are found, the items “will be confiscated at that time and a member of [DCL] staff will follow up,” the emails stated. But what does “random” mean? Will DCL staff also be entering rooms, or only accompany the Fire Marshall to the door? This board recommends that DCL make this process as transparent as possible — especially given recent controversy over DCL Health and Safety Inspections.
DCL staff are currently working to change the room inspection process, and announced in a Sept. 18 email that they are assembling a group of students, community advisors and DCL staff to evaluate and improve the process. The working group was initially announced in an Aug. 29 email from University Provost Lisa M. Lynch in the context of “respond[ing] to issues raised last spring by the #StillConcernedStudents group.” At their protest last spring, the group called for an independent investigation into racial bias in DCL conduct violation reports, as well as mandating informed consent for room inspections. While the University is working to revamp the inspections process, they have not heeded the calls for an independent investigation into issues of potential racial bias. Given DCL’s unresponsiveness to the more hard-hitting of these demands and the current climate surrounding room inspections, it was unwise of DCL to turn fire drills into an opportunity to inspect student rooms — at least, that is how it appears.
While this board appreciates that DCL notified students about these impending room entries, the department should have taken the extra step to make it clear to the student body why the entrances are occuring. Presumably, a combination of state and federal laws, as well as University policies, dictates the terms of fire drills such as these — but this should be clearly explained. Section 9.4 of the Brandeis Rights and Responsibilities governs the University’s right of entry into students’ rooms but doesn’t clarify policies during fire drills, a step that board recommends.
DCL did not emphasize in the email that student rooms will be entered. Several lines of the email were bolded, but entry into student living spaces didn’t warrant such treatment. Considering rooms are private spaces, students should have the opportunity to at least be fully aware of the fact that their space will be entered, no matter how much right DCL has to enter. Should a student read the subject line and skim the email, only reading the eye-catching bolded text, they would completely miss the crucial part. Given the sensitive climate around student privacy and punishment, this was irresponsible. Fire safety is crucial — but so are student rights.