All Columbia student dormitories will undergo health and safety inspections by University officials from Residential Life, Housing, and Fire Safety beginning Nov. 12, according to an email from Columbia Housing to students earlier this afternoon.
The room inspections, which will take place over the next month and end on Dec. 10, intend to check for housing violations or items under Columbia Housing’s list of prohibited items, which include extension cords without surge protectors, candles, electronic cigarettes, and illegal drugs and paraphernalia.
Officials will enter rooms regardless of whether students are present and will “remove” prohibited items that they find, according to the email. The email did not detail specific times or dates for room inspections for each dorm.
According to a University spokesperson, the new room inspections were largely implemented for safety reasons, particularly as students may tamper with fire safety devices to silence alarms. The spokesperson cited a fire in Ruggles hall last December, which was caused by clothing left draped over an electrical Halogen lamp—an item prohibited by Columbia Housing.
Students found in possession of illegal or dangerous items may be subject to disciplinary action from Residential Life or Student Conduct and Community Standards, according to the email. Items may also be confiscated immediately upon discovery.
Prior to the announcement, students in dormitories have only been subject to occasional room inspections by their Resident Advisers. At Barnard, however, students have historically undergone mandatory room checks by their RAs at the start of every semester, and are notified multiple weeks in advance.
Gabbi Foca, CC ’21 and a resident of Nussbaum hall, expressed concern about both the short notice of the announcement and the lack of clarity it provided regarding what University officials would be permitted to search.
“I feel like [the inspection] is pretty invasive. I don’t see how they should get the right to show up whenever they want without any notice,” Foca said. “We also haven’t been told if they have the right to go through our desks, drawers, or closets, so right now, it’s all just pretty confusing and concerning.”
According to Jinoh Lee, CC ‘19 and East Campus resident, the policy is still unlikely to affect change in most cases, as students are able to simply hide the items that they already have.
"I thought it was kind of wack. My suspicion is that Columbia is doing this because they want to stop all the fire alarms from happening, but I feel like it’s just an inconvenience for all of us and isn’t really going to solve anything. Students are going to hide whatever they can.”