This article has been edited from its original version to better reflect the campus’ rules and regulations.
The rules for dorm room searches, and security guidelines for searches has been a central discussion on campus that seems to have no concrete answer. Students understandably have strong expectations that the privacy of their living space in dorm rooms will be respected during their short time here. In order to dispel rumor and come to campus-wide understanding, it is pivotal to understand what constitutes a room search and the parameters of each type of search.
As per the Student Handbook, ENC security and resident life has the legal right to search a resident’s room when it is believed “in good faith” that there exists an emergency situation, a violation of federal, civil, or state law, or a violation of a campus rule or regulation.
The Dean of Residential Life Marion Mason commented that room searches exist in three types: security, safety, and concern. The first is the standard security checks that RA’s conduct in the beginning of the semester when students move in, as well as when students move out. In addition to these checks, rooms are searched by SDO and security over winter break. This is not meant to be a search of students’ property, instead to make sure that the heat is turned off, extension cords are unplugged, or any security hazards are handled.
This search has sparked concern recently, as students complained that their belongings had been investigated through during the winter search. Many believed their drawers to be left open, or food, like sugar, to have been rifled through. However, Mason reassures that it is not ENC policy to go through property during these searches, and that security merely looks at the surface of the room.
“With over 200 rooms to go through, there is not enough time to go through everyone’s property,” Mason commented.
Students are also to be notified by security or a member of SDO if an item has been removed, and the student is not present during the search. Residents will also be given a receipt for any items taken, and can collect them if it is determined that no law has been broken.
Head of Security John Gelormini mentioned that complaints of opened drawers and boxes may be instances of forgetting previous actions or roommates moving things around. He recalled one instance where a student believed her property to have been taken during a fall room search because of a simple mistake.
“Recently we had a student complain that she had two DVDs stolen over break. This had not been the case, and she realized that she had brought the DVDs home with her,” Gelormini said.
The second type of search is that which campus is usually abuzz about: a room search out of concern for violation of campus rules. Typically SDO will act when they receive either an incident report or hard evidence that a violation is occurring in a room. Searches must be conducted in pairs. This always includes at least one SDO member, since they initiate the search. The second person could be another SDO member or an ENC security officer. These two members will go to the student’s room, and with the knowledge of the student, search a room. During these searches, the student is invited to speak with them, as a student is innocent until proven guilty; but they do wish for the student to inform them if anything in the room violates a law or ENC policy.
While these searches are meant to invite the students to observe and interact with the staff conducting the search, this can be hard during an admittedly stressful experience.
One resident recalls their room search during this school year.
“It was uneasy for me because I don’t like people touching my stuff and I have bad anxiety which caused me to tense up,” an anonymous source shared.
“I do not think they handled it well. They went through personal property of mine such as pill bottles,” the same source shared.
The third form of room check is that out of concern for safety, and this often is utilized when there is prior knowledge that a student may be hurt or has not been seen or heard by in a significant amount of time.
The college reserves the right to search rooms with proper causes to protect the health and safety of students. By agreeing to attend ENC, all students thereby agree to all campus rules, including room checks and other campus-specific rules. There are limits to the legal validity of these searches if a student should be sent to court.
While students can view the amount of violation offences at the end of the year security report, Gelormini stated that although there has been an increase in calls for reports, room searches have not gone up this year.
Students who feel that their property has been wrongly violated should speak to administration, namely SDO, about their concerns.
“People may feel that they are being violated or the situation not handled properly. But I would like people to know we care about all of them and go above and beyond. We respect their property. We want to make ENC better for all students, it is our responsibility,” stated Mason.