On weekend nights at Columbia, residents bringing friends to their dorms is a regular sight, with students signing in as many guests as they want.
But across Broadway, Barnard students are only allowed to sign two guests at a time into their rooms—a 10-year-old policy that has come under increasing scrutiny this semester.
Barnard’s more restrictive guest policy states that “each bedroom has a maximum occupancy equal to the number of assigned residents times three.” In other words, students can sign in only two guests each.
Associate Dean of Campus and Residential Life Annie Aversa said the policy exists to prevent overcrowding and disruptive noise levels.
“Most importantly, in the event of an emergency, first responders need immediate and easy access to students and rooms, so the guest limit helps to keep crowds in residence halls at a reasonable level,” Aversa said.
Columbia does not specify a limit in its Guide to Living, although “front desk guards generally limit visitors to no more than five persons at time,” Assistant Dean for Community Development and Residential Programs Cristen Kromm said. “Guards use judgment on a case-by-case basis to be more flexible or restrictive depending on circumstances in the residence hall.”
Barnard has not always restricted the number of guests students could sign in. In the fall of 2000, an incident prompted Barnard’s Student Government Association and Housing Advisory Committee to implement a guest limitation policy. A student became ill at a crowded party, and first responders were unable to enter the room quickly because so many students were trying to leave to avoid being written up, Aversa said.
However, some Barnard students find the limit too strict.
“I agree that there should be some sort of limit because it can be excessive, but I think two can be bordering on ridiculous,” Melanie Shapiro, BC ’15, said. “It’s just really unfortunate—when you want to go to your room, you can’t, because it would be rude to leave someone downstairs.”
Sandy Bennett, a weekday and night desk attendant at Barnard’s 600 building on 116th Street, said she supports increasing the guest limit, as the restriction causes crowds to build while multiple students sign in large groups of guests.
Crowd control can get “really frustrating,” Bennett said. She “can’t watch the door or the elevator and the stairs at the same time,” adding that she occasionally calls a security guard to help out with crowds.
Logan Donovan, SEAS ’13 and former vice president of policy for the Engineering Student Council, said that the current policy doesn’t help disperse large crowds.
“I think they should limit how many are in the building at one time,” Donovan said.
Serena Board , BC ’15, said that she finds the policy unenforceable and therefore unnecessary.
“If we want to invite people over for dinner or celebrate someone’s birthday, it’s a lot of trouble to go through,” Board said. “You have to enlist other people’s help to sign people in, so it’s not really limiting how many people you’re signing in. People will find a way around it.”
In Barnard’s apartment building on 110th Street, students say that security guards rarely even require students to sign their guests in.
“Pretty much you just walk in and nobody is going to stop you,” Michelle McPhillips, BC ’15, said. She said large groups of girls walk in without signing, but a group with three or more guys will often be stopped by the desk guard.
McPhillips said that overcrowding and noise aren’t major issues, and neither is safety.
“I’ve never felt unsafe. They’re aware enough of the people coming in that if there was someone sketchy enough they would be able to stop them,” McPhillips said, adding that Columbia’s policy “makes more sense.”
Aversa said she does not foresee changes to the policy any time soon.
“Barnard does not automatically mirror policies adopted by CU or other colleges,” she said in an email. “Instead, we take care in drafting policies that meet the specific needs and requirements of our student populations and residence halls, which are different than CU. We believe the current guest policy is fair to our students while also meeting important safety standards, which is our top priority.”