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Margaret Maguire / Columbia Daily Spectator

In previous years, outside furniture had been permitted only if students provided a receipt proving that it had been purchased new.

Amid confusion about the enforcement of a policy prohibiting outside furniture in residence halls, Barnard Residential Life and Housing has confirmed that students will no longer be penalized for violating the policy, which the college has said it is now re-evaluating.

The policy, which has been in place for years but was only strictly enforced starting this year, prohibits any upholstered furniture not provided by the college, including common items such as bean-bag chairs and ottomans, from any Barnard dorms. The decision to start enforcing the policy was announced to students in an email at the start of the semester, and residential advisers and hall directors were instructed to tell their residents to either discard or sell their prohibited furniture during move-in.

In previous years, outside furniture had been permitted only if students provided a receipt proving that it had been purchased new.

However, in a statement sent to Spectator on Friday, Executive Director of Residential Life and Housing Alicia Lawrence said that the outside furniture policy is currently under re-evaluation, and students will no longer be penalized for having this furniture in their rooms. According to Lawrence, the policy had originally been designed to decrease the risk of “hazards,” including bedbugs.

Since community safety inspections began at the start of October, RAs have expressed confusion about what furniture is covered under the policy and how to address violations. Further, due to the lack of uniformity regarding how to conduct inspections, some residents were reported for violating the policy while others with outside furniture were not.

Thanks to this ambiguity, though the initial protocol was to document the violations by taking pictures of the prohibited item and reporting it to the hall director, RAs took matters into their own hands.

One junior RA implemented a “second-strike” rule, where, upon seeing and notifying a resident of the policy violation, she gave the resident a chance to sell the furniture before confiscating it.

“It’s us, the RAs, who are not about to be that [over-vigilant] person and report it to ResLife. We tell them that they’re not allowed to have it and we give them a chance to sell it before we come in and do the inspection,” she said.

One senior RA, who requested anonymity to protect her job security, said that the policy is an over-correction due to previous violations of the policy. She also said she felt the policy is “half-baked,” given the similarities between some permitted and prohibited items.

“Bean-bags aren’t allowed; my thought process is pillows are allowed, which means floor pillows are allowed because you’re throwing pillows on the ground, but floor poufs and bean-bags aren’t allowed, and there’s a very small difference,” she said. | @ColumbiaSpec

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