While fire safety is of utmost importance and should be treated with due seriousness, fire code enforcement at UR unjustly violates students’ personal space. UR needs to work to properly balance both student privacy needs and fire prevention standards.
It is important to note that many fire regulations are not left to UR’s discretion. Many rules such as which items are not allowed inside dorm rooms are determined by state regulation, not university decision.
While UR strictly follows state law, it does so at the expense of student privacy. Fire marshals are legally allowed by the Residential Life contract to search dorm rooms at any time, even without a resident present, and may look through the entirety of students’ rooms and personal belongings. Permitting residents to be present not only helps alleviate privacy concerns, but also allows students to defend themselves. Some items, for example, may be kept safely within drawers. They are clearly not fire hazards as long as they are used in proper places.
It is also a concern that such fire checks seem to happen only toward the end of each semester. It would be more effective to have these checks at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters; this way, new students quickly learn the regulations that they must abide by during their stay at UR.
While UR is a private institution and can legally search any student’s room at any time, that does not mean it should. It is one thing to have RAs fellow students employed by the school to enter rooms, and another thing completely to have others trespass on student property while they are away and unaware of such happenings.
That these intrusions occur and personnel can enter rooms at any time is a slippery slope leading to ‘1984.” UR has the legal right to conduct searches, but it must strive to find a middle ground that acknowledges student liberty and personal privacy, both of which are currently extinguished in the blaze of overall fire safety codes.