The Department of Community Living is currently working to improve its Health and Safety Inspections process and has assembled a working group for input on the subject, according to a Sept. 18 email to the Brandeis community from DCL requesting volunteers for the group. 

Initial inspections are taking place from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6, according to an Oct. 15 campus-wide email from DCL. Follow-up inspections for those with violations will be conducted by a Community Advisor from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13.

The working group met for its first discussion on Sept. 27. During this meeting, the working group reviewed the Health and Safety Inspection Process, which included an evaluation of CA training and of DCL’s communication with students about the inspection process, according to a Nov. 1 email to the Justice from DCL Assistant Director Melody Smith. 

“The group gave us great suggestions for improvements including the reformatting of our email (which we updated for this semester) as well as the option to schedule a time for the inspection (which we are also piloting in East and Skyline),” she wrote.

In her email, Smith further explained that DCL wants to hear feedback from residents and answer their questions with the goals of improving the inspection process and helping residents to understand its importance. 

“We have heard that residents felt they were not given informed consent about the inspections, so we hope with better communication and messaging, this will give residents more awareness of the process and the timeline in which these inspections occur,” Smith wrote.

According to Smith’s email and the Sept. 18 email from DCL, DCL hopes these discussions will improve the Health and Safety Inspection process and better inform students about the inspection process. “The goal DCL has for this evaluation is to gain [residents’] feedback, answer any questions they have and see if we can improve our overall process so that all residents understand why Health and Safety Inspections are important,” Smith wrote. The Sept. 18 email from DCL said that it also intends to hold similar discussions in the future.

Changes to the room inspection process were in response to the #StillConcernedStudents group’s protest and demands last semester, Provost Lisa Lynch explained in an Aug. 29 email to the Brandeis community. “We have been working this summer to respond to issues raised last spring by the #StillConcernedStudents group. We appreciate the group members’ collaborative spirit and the productive dialogue that has led to changes that will benefit our entire community,” she wrote.

At last semester’s protest, the #StillConcernedStudents group asked that DCL mandate informed consent for room inspections and that the University compile a public, third-party report investigating racial bias in DCL code violation reports.

#StillConcernedStudents did not comment publicly on Lynch’s statement or DCL’s policy changes.

DCL performs Health and Safety Inspections of students’ dorm rooms every semester in order to ensure that they are not in violation of any of the rules and regulations outlined in the Housing Rights and Responsibilities. During these check-ins, DCL staff “evaluate the safety, security, and health conditions of the rooms and … check for illegal possession of University-owned property,” according to the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. They are also supposed to alert students of their estimated inspection time at least 24 hours in advance of it taking place.

DCL will be re-evaluating and improving these current procedures through this newly-assembled working group of students, CAs and DCL staff. According to the Sept. 18 email from DCL, the goal of the Health and Safety Inspection Working Group is to discuss improvements to the scheduling and communications process of the inspections. 

In an Oct. 31 email to the Justice, East and Skyline Quad Area Coordinator Kate Mandel explained that initial room inspections are almost always conducted by one CA and one DCL professional, with a few exceptions; initial room inspections are always conducted with at least one professional, she said. Follow-up inspections are conducted by CAs, according to a series of campus-wide emails from DCL prior to the inspections.