New limits on the number of consecutive nights guests can stay in Barnard residence halls stemmed from residents abusing a lax guest policy in previous years, administrators say—but the rule is not expected to be strictly enforced.
The 2013-14 Residence Hall Handbook states that a guest may stay over for “no more than three consecutive nights and no more than six nights total in any 30-day period,” bringing it in line with the policy for Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science dorms.
Barnard Dean Avis Hinkson, BC ’84, said that the new policy was put in place after Barnard received complaints from students who felt uncomfortable with guests staying for extended periods in their suites or rooms.
“We needed to define what constitutes a reasonable length and frequency of stay for guests, since roommates sometimes do not see eye-to-eye on this topic and some students aren’t comfortable speaking with one another about those concerns,” Hinkson said in an email.
SGA Vice President for Campus Life Colleen Mulvihill and Representative for Campus Affairs Sharon Kwong, both BC ’14, said that in a meeting with members of the Residential Life & Housing Office on Thursday, administrators also mentioned concerns over people living in the dorms without paying as a cause of the new policy.
In suite-style residential housing like the 600 dorms, Cathedral Gardens, and Plimpton, desk attendants have been given new log books to make it easier for names to be tracked.
However, according to Mulvihill, administrators “made it clear that desk attendants are not necessarily going to be going through and trying to catch every person who is exceeding the six-day limit, but they are only going to enforce it if they hear complaints.”
Kwong and Mulvihill said the main concern they’ve received from students is regarding the six-nights-per-month portion of the policy.
“If your significant other goes to Columbia, he or she can’t stay over for more than six nights,” Mulvihill said.
Kwong, who also chairs the Housing Advisory Board, said there wasn’t a defined policy in the past.
“Basically, in the past, the policy was that the guests could stay over for a ‘reasonable’ amount of time, but they had never actually defined what a reasonable amount of time was,” she said. “Because there had been issues in the past, they felt that they needed to come up with a definition to set a standard.”
Hinkson and other administrators also looked into the policies of other institutions when deciding how to create Barnard’s rule.
“Barnard’s previous policy was extremely lax in comparison to our peer institutions, making it difficult to address these concerns in a way that was fair and consistent,” Hinkson said.
Columbia has a guest limit of five nights per month, a rule that is hardly enforced.
Some RAs think the new policy will help students feel more at ease in their dorms.
The policy “provides a way for individuals who are, maybe, uncomfortable with another resident’s abuse of the rule, to have a way for them to say, ‘No, this resident is doing this and it’s a hindrance to my hall,’” Darcy Cassidy, BC ’16 and resident assistant, said.
Cassidy notes that it would be very easy to break the rule as there is no automatic system that is used to check people in. Still, she said, “it at least provides a framework for someone who feels that their rights are being stepped on.”
Stefani Priskos, BC ’16 and resident assistant for the seventh floor of Brooks Hall, said the rule is “less about administration monitoring who comes in and out but more about giving people tools to be able to make themselves feel comfortable.”
For some Barnard students, the new limits have already caused concerns this semester.
Natiaha Hinnerichs, BC ’17, who is on the track and field team, occasionally has recruits staying over in her room during recruiting season. She said that she believes she should have control over her own living space and not have to explain herself or her guests to anyone.
The policy does allow for exceptions to be made in certain situations. “In extenuating circumstances exceptions to the overnight guest policy can be made” by contacting Res Life, the handbook states.
In order to receive permission, a student must contact Res Life for a longer stay, and Res Life will contact the student’s roommates to see if they are comfortable with the guest’s extended stay.
The SGA Housing Advisory Board is going to help Res Life fine-tune the new changes and eliminate grey areas regarding the issue.
Mulvihill and Kwong both note that the language of the handbook is vague: “What’s a night? Is it from two to four or from midnight to nine?” Mulvihill said.
Kwong added, “There is also confusion as to whether the six-nights period is based off of one guest or if it is like, ‘Could I have a different person stay over every night?’”