Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, July 14, 2009

KU proposal would allow housing supervisors to enter dorm rooms with probable cause

‘Probable cause’ on drinking would allow supervisors to use their keys

KU officials have proposed to enter students' rooms without permission, raising some questions about privacy rights.

July 14, 2009

Advertisement

Reader poll
Should Kansas University officials be allowed to enter rooms in student housing uninvited if authorities believe illegal drinking or drug use is happening inside?

or See the results without voting

A proposed policy at Kansas University would allow student housing supervisors to enter students’ rooms without a search warrant if they had probable cause to believe alcohol was being consumed inside.

KU officials have re-evaluated several of their policies following the deaths of two students last semester in which drinking played a part. Some policy changes, including one outlining a process of parental notification of alcohol violations, were announced in May.

A proposed policy change would make it so supervisors could open and enter student rooms with a key if they had probable cause to believe that a violation of housing policy was occurring, said Marlesa Roney, KU vice provost for student success.

Resident assistants would knock, identify themselves and, if not allowed in, would go get a senior housing staff member, who would then knock again and identify themselves. If still not allowed in, then the staff would be allowed to use their keys to enter the room.

The policy now allows resident assistants to enter rooms only if the students allow them in. If students do not permit it or don’t respond, resident assistants must obtain a search warrant to enter.

Many times, students will open the door if a resident assistant knocks and identifies himself, but some know they don’t have to, and won’t, Roney said, and a search warrant can take more than 24 hours to obtain.

By that time, the violation usually is no longer occurring, she said.

“What it essentially does is create a situation where our staff members are unable to uphold university policy,” she said.

Things that would cause an employee to enter a room could be anything from a detected odor of marijuana, a suspicion that alcohol was being consumed inside the room or other nondrug or nonalcohol-related offenses, Roney said.

For example, Roney said it’s usually easy to tell whether several specific drinking games are being played by listening at the door.

“And it’s pretty obvious it’s not Diet Coke” that’s being consumed, she said.

Roney said similar policies to the proposed changes are common at universities across the country.

The proposal is subject to review by student governance, Roney said, but it has been met with approval by students on a student housing advisory board. The changes could be in place by as early as mid- to late September, she said.

Mason Heilman, student body president, said he was focused on ensuring that policy changes — which would require amendments to the student code — were heard by the appropriate student review boards before they went into place. He said he had not had time to form an opinion on the policy itself.

He said he had some concerns about the policy, including that it would be reactionary rather than preventive, and may simply force some drinking off-campus.

Garrett Kelly, a Tonganoxie senior living in Pearson Scholarship Hall, said he felt that, while the events of the previous semester were tragic, such a drastic change in the housing policy wasn’t warranted.

“The sad fact is that drinking does sometimes occur,” in student housing, Kelly said. “I feel like the trade-off with privacy isn’t worth it.”

Roney said she understood the privacy concerns. Current student code allows students the same privacy rights as an adult living in an apartment in Lawrence, something that would have to be changed for the new regulations to go into place, she said.

She said that student input would be important on the privacy point. There would be no searches of rooms, she said. Student housing employees would restrict themselves to openly visible violations, under the proposal.

“Honestly, in my mind, it is not a huge intrusion in privacy,” Roney said.

The changes had been discussed previously, but were sped up after the two student deaths last semester, Roney said, adding that communitywide discussion continues on what can be done at KU to curb toxic drinking.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 5 months ago

Nothing will change. The students will just have a handy place to hide the evidence when someone knocks on the door. Or is the smell of alcohol on someone's breath or behavior going to be considered as evidence of wrong doing in and of itself?

Shane Garrett 5 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps the moral police could use some sort of religious law violation. Then provide a box of rocks and have a stoning of the wrong doers in the parking lot. This would teach others that drinking alcohol is a sin.

pace 5 years, 5 months ago

The should have the same rights as if they lived in an apartment, a house, or trailer. Declaring someone's home to be public property is spacious reasoning.

MarchSadness 5 years, 5 months ago

This is nonsense. I really hope it doesn't go through.

hujiko 5 years, 5 months ago

This will only cause those wishing to drink to leave their rooms to find somewhere else, leading to more drunk freshmen on the roads which doesn't really prevent harm as the proposal wishes to accomplish.

Justanopinion 5 years, 5 months ago

They aren't people they are just students! Come on when are you all gonna realize that making the choice to go to college means you loose some of your rights to freedom and due process.

missmagoo 5 years, 5 months ago

so what if the kid is in the shower? or "busy" when they barge in with a key? total invasion of privacy.

middleoftheroad 5 years, 5 months ago

But since KU is a dry campus, there shouldn't be thought given on how to keep drinking on campus...it's already not supposed to happen! If the concern is to keep the drinking on campus, it shouldn't be a dry campus.

I'm in complete favor of the proposal because this is supposedly what the people want. I'm not in favor of it because I agree with the principles but it certainly answers to the outcry from a few months ago. When the tragic deaths of students occurred, everyone was up in arms that more should have been done. This is the unfortunate answer to that. It may be an intrusion on privacy but how can the school prevent incident and respond if they're not allowed into the situation?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 5 months ago

If you choose to live in a dorm which is owned and operated by the university then you have to live by their rules. As a parent you can't serve your children alcohol at home on the grounds that they will get it somewhere. You get in trouble if you do. This is not an invasion of privacy issue at all. That is a spurious attempt to sideline the real problem.

laika 5 years, 5 months ago

"For example, Roney said it’s usually easy to tell whether several specific drinking games are being played by listening at the door.

“And it’s pretty obvious it’s not Diet Coke” that’s being consumed, she said.


This might take the cake for most poorly thought out statement by a University official this summer. First, does the University employ a general counsel or PR person? In fact, they do (http://www.counsel.ku.edu/ , http://www.ur.ku.edu/) . Maybe they're on summer break, and therefore not screening what University officials are going to offer up on the record, especially when concerning a delicate legal matter. Roney's choice quote does several things: first, it confirms that University officials are already entering this situation with the an cocksure attitude and little respect for privacy or probable cause. As Roney indicates she knows that students aren't drinking Diet coke, because, uh, ummm, well I guess she just does. Even better, will a "senior housing staff member" really know any more than Roney, especially when some tired or stressed out RA or "deskie" is relaying them information.

Second, who thought up the genius idea of giving a "senior housing staff member", essentially an older student, the permission and responsibility for carrying out this policy. If this policy was ever challenged on 4th amendment grounds, the "senior housing staff member" could be opening themselves up to a painful world of litigation, even if just in a civil sense. Further, does anyone really think that these staff members, even if they are older than an average RA, have the necessary training or depth of experience to determine what constitutes probable cause? Law enforcement officials have battled with abuses concerning probable cause for decades. They work closely with their DA's, states attorneys and even the Justice Department, on a federal level, to deal with this issue. It is not clear that kind of support would be available to housing staff members.

Previous cases, such as Devers v. Southern University, 712 So. 2nd 199 (1998), have dealt with the issues of searches of students room. In that case, the search was deemed impermissible, as it fell outside the scope the contractual agreement the student signed. If students sign a contractual agreement permitting searches with "reasonable cause" and the University cannot prove reasonable cause existed, it could open it self up to similar to legal challenges. Is the University really willing to wade into that thicket? Judging from Ms. Roney's comments, they seem willing to rush in head first.

More information:

http://www.reslife.net/html/administrative_0701a.html

Eride 5 years, 5 months ago

"The should have the same rights as if they lived in an apartment, a house, or trailer."

They probably should but they already don't and I find it doubtful that this new rule if written and applied correctly will be unconstitutional or against statutory or case law in this state/district.

As for the case cited by laika: Devers v. Southern University is a Louisiana State Court of Appeals case. It does not have to be followed under stare decisis and so may have little or no bearing on case law in other states/districts (considering it is a state intermediate appellate ruling from Louisiana whose law to begin with is significantly different then every other jurisdiction I am guessing it is closer to the no side then the little side). The case also doesn't have the meaning applied to it that you imply it does (a common issue when people who aren't lawyers try to use the law..). The court in its reasoning rejected the housing regulation in Devers because it was so broad that it would have allowed them to enter the students dorm for any reason and it also allowed warrant less searches by police. Neither of which apply in this situation and as stated above, what a Louisiana state intermediate appellate court says doesn't really carry any weight around here.

I am not saying your opinion isn't completely incorrect but you were implying something by citing that case that just isn't accurate. If the judicial precedences for this jurisdiction on administrative searches are in the affirmative (which in a lot of jurisdictions they are, I am to busy to research it myself or I would) and they do a good job of incorporating the regulation and enforcing it I doubt they will have any problems.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 5 months ago

There are freshmen that never take a drink of alcohol. Why not have the dorms designated as boarding houses and have the university refuse all responsibility for all that goes on there. If a student drinks alcohol to the point of death it should be their fault and theirs alone.

rastarman 5 years, 5 months ago

Let's keep adhering to Constitutional protections against "unreasonable searches." As far as students dying from alcohol-related incidents, let's remember they did us a favor by not polluting the gene pool and reproducing.

MissinLawrence 5 years, 5 months ago

When I lived in the dorms at ESU, we were not allowed alcohol in the dorms, but obviously we did consume alcohol in the dorms. If our RA came into the room and SAW the alcohol, she would kicked us out of the dorms, but if she SUSPECTED it in the dorms, she could not do anything about it, because she did not have a right to search through our personal things.

Now the article states that supervisors could ENTER the dorm rooms, does it say anything about being about to serach for alcohol? Stuff is reallly easy to hide after you hear your door knock...

And how do you know they are not just using Diet Coke to practice for beer bong or flippy cup?

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

Shut down the dorms then nobody has to be concerned about any privacy issues and Ku won't need to worry if drinking is going on in them.

wordgenie8 5 years, 5 months ago

How will KU define "probable cause"? It would be important to nail this down specifically without much wiggle room. I think any policy change we make should be in line with the search and seizure clause of the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution. It's discouraging when universities contravene in their rules and regulations the basic tenets of our so-called democracy.

Eride 5 years, 5 months ago

wordgenie8 (Anonymous) says… How will KU define “probable cause”? It would be important to nail this down specifically without much wiggle room. I think any policy change we make should be in line with the search and seizure clause of the 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution. It's discouraging when universities contravene in their rules and regulations the basic tenets of our so-called democracy.


Hmm... Me thinks that you did not bother to read the entire article nor my comment that is fairly close to being above yours.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 5 months ago

I still think that KU should relay on Sharia Law and stone to death those in violation. Not that I would want to be accused of trolling. Just a quick and easy answer. Better than a court ruling from La.

volunteer 5 years, 5 months ago

This proposal is a refreshing change from "Look at me, I'm cool" Hemenway and his "Welcome, party animals!" exhortation.

With last year's alcohol/drug related deaths occur on/near campus, of course there is going to be a reaction now that KU has a responsible adult in charge. Similar to when there was a drug death at Wakifest, the next year cops were swarming and intrusive.

Satirical 5 years, 5 months ago

Irish... "As a parent you can't serve your children alcohol at home on the grounds that they will get it somewhere. You get in trouble if you do."

I know this is a tangential point, but most cities codes have an exception if the parents allow the drinking in their home. The problem is when the parents allow kids that are not their own to drink, which would fall under the "hosting" category.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, let's see.

If a student drinks too much and falls to his or her death out of a window, KU can find itself being sued for allowing it to happen.

If KU implements a policy to try to prevent alcohol related injuries and deaths, they can find themselves sued for invasion of privacy.

Sounds like KU is going to get sued.

Come on, responsibility and authority go hand in hand. Either KU is not responsible for the results of student drinking, or they have the authority to try to prevent excesses, at least on their property.

exhawktown 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm curious about the way people think. Are you the kind of person who wants to sacrifice personal liberty and responsibility to a "higher" authority you think can insure your safety? Are you willing to give up your privacy, personally?

This policy still has to be approved by some student governing body. The question can be applied to this situation, and to all of us, as well.

dweezil222 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm concerned about the ability of KU to effectively train RA's in what exactly constitutes "probable cause." That legal standard has always been somewhat nebulous on where exactly the boundaries lie.

theno1jhawk 5 years, 5 months ago

"Things that would cause an employee to enter a room could be anything from a detected odor of marijuana, a suspicion that alcohol was being consumed inside the room or other nondrug or nonalcohol-related offenses, Roney said."

What are the other offenses? Also, were these incidents of the students deaths related to drinking in dorms? Or were the students drinking somewhere else then came home to the dorms?

trishlovesdolphins 5 years, 5 months ago

Irish, there is no option you HAVE to live on campus if you're a Freshman.

I was an RA, I'll tell you exactly what will happen,. They'll add another day to the summer training, and possibly an evening training session once classes start.

You'll have RAs who will bend the rules and ignore the drinking as long as the students involved aren't causing a problem, and you'll have the hard asses who will bust in for no reason, usually because they'll just assume something is going on. These are the same RAs who will search a room for contraband when the dorms close down for breaks. You're not supposed to do this, but it happens.

You'll also have RAs who will drink WITH the students, though housing doesn't usually know that goes on. Anymore than they know that some RAs go and pick up drunk students to come back home because a lot of them rather drive home a drunk student than have a drunk driver on the road.

The whole idea is a bunch of crap. All that will happen is the resident will hide the contraband. Hell, buy a small safe and store your contraband in it! So what are they going to do next? Allow searches? The first time they bust in on someone having sex, or even sleeping so sound they don't hear the door, they'll be opened up for complaints. Especially if we're talking female resident and male RA/RA supervisor. I LOVED living in the dorms, I even miss it, but I have to say if something like this passes, I wouldn't live in the dorms if I had to go back to school.

trishlovesdolphins 5 years, 5 months ago

Then they've changed it, because when I was a Freshman it was required.

Shane Garrett 5 years, 5 months ago

In my day we had keggers right at McCollum hall. I still, to this day, have vivid images of people packed into the "New Wave" elevator during a 60's party. (slight shudder)

gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 5 months ago

“Honestly, in my mind, it is not a huge intrusion in privacy,” Roney said.

Riiiiight. Perhaps she would feel differently if someone entered her home every time someone thought she was violating the rules. I realize these kids sign contracts, but this seems to be a very slippery slope. What happens if housing opens a door without a warrant and witnesses another illegal activity? What happens if they are wrong but witness something else? What is a male housing person opens the door on a female who is less than dressed? How is "probably cause" determined? What happens if they pass the change, another kid dies and there is reason to believe dorm staffers had "probable cause" but failed to investigate? Stupid, stupid policy change.

denak 5 years, 5 months ago

If the RAs suspect that there is underage drinking or that someone is using illicit drugs then they should call the campus police. Let the police take care of this problem. Supposedly that is what they are there for.

I think this policy is just going to end up costing the university a lot of dollars in litigation if they implement it.

Dena

jayhawks71 5 years, 5 months ago

"Declaring someone's home to be public property is spacious reasoning."

But aren't the dorm rooms at a state university public property? Whereas, an apartment off-campus is privately owned.

At the other end of the argument, I am waiting for the "if you don't have anything to hide" crowd to arrive.

Satirical 5 years, 5 months ago

Satirical...

Maybe this was a typo, but it is a pet peeve of mine when people get this word wrong. It is "specious" not "spacious."

awaybutstillcares 5 years, 5 months ago

my first week living in gsp i found a girl passed out face down in the shower -- her face was in the water and she could of drowned herself -- a couple of weeks later a boy fell out of his room at oliver when he was trying to smoke a cigarette -- both of these students were let back into the dorms after drinking off campus

if they are going to go as far as opening doors -- they might as well stop students at the door -- i believe there is a bigger probability of a student getting drunk off campus and coming home with alcohol poisoning -- it is very obvious when students come home drunk or are sneaking in alcohol into the dorms -- as other people have mentioned KEGS make their way into the buildings -- come on entire kegs can get in - what else can?

i agree with the statement that if a ra believes there is drinking he/she should call the ku police -- they need something better to do than hand out speeding tickets

i think having a ku police officer at the front of the entrance would have a better affect of stopping students from bringing in alcohol or coming back to the dorms drunk -- a man in an uniform is a tad more threatening than a ra -- who could be as drunk as the students himself

barging in on students will not stop drinking on campus or in the dorm rooms

and i will admit i entrained friends in my dorm room over fall break -- we were the only four people in the building besides the ra at the front of the entrance -- he knew what we were doing and never stopped us --- and it was one of the best times i ever had at ku

hujiko 5 years, 5 months ago

Why doesn't the university station guards with breathalyzers at the doors every night from 7pm to 7am to combat drinking? Oh and while your at it, why don't you just set up a whole security checkpoint like the airports have? We don't want any terrorists to get in.

mdrndgtl 5 years, 5 months ago

The university needs to curtail drinking in the dorms, but they can do this without room searches. How about a one strike rule where one infraction gets you kicked off campus? It is very damning for a university to have a student die on campus, I understand the need for this, but yes, it blows.

greenworld 5 years, 5 months ago

So this policy is only for alcohol, what about weed? So if they smell weed then they are suppose to close the door and walk away and say well at least I checked for alcohol. I dont know how many times I delivered pizza's to the jayhawk towers to student athletes and the halls reaked of weed. I guess that is okay though. Anyway, none of this will ever fly , there isnt enough what if's that they have worked out for every scenario which will be different.

puddleglum 5 years, 5 months ago

I think this is a great idea-I don't want to send my pot-smoking children to a school and pay for their classes and then have them waste all that money by toking up a J while they are supposed to be studying. ....(eyes roll) what will stop them from going out to their car or just walking along the jayhawk boulevard or even smoking on the steps of strong hall? I see all three all of the time.

Satirical 5 years, 5 months ago

puddleglum... "what will stop them from going out to their car or just walking along the jayhawk boulevard or even smoking on the steps of strong hall?"

Laziness and stupidity. Two things which are not in short supply for college freshman.

Eride 5 years, 5 months ago

"denak (Anonymous) says… If the RAs suspect that there is underage drinking or that someone is using illicit drugs then they should call the campus police. Let the police take care of this problem. Supposedly that is what they are there for.

I think this policy is just going to end up costing the university a lot of dollars in litigation if they implement it.

Dena"


See, this is the problem, you and almost every other person commenting on this thread are stating opinions without knowing ANYTHING about the relevant laws governing this.

For instance, calling the police in to deal with it would actually probably result in litigation for 4th amendment violations. There is a big difference between the police coming in and searching without a warrant and an RA coming in and doing a visual scan for violations of the housing rules.

And everyone who keeps talking about how this new regulation is illegal based off one whacked out legal notion or another need to realize that if you don't know anything about the relevant law... your opinion is worthless!

Universities and Colleges all over the United States do this exact thing and barring a significant difference in administrative law in this jurisdiction over the majority position it is extremely doubtful that KU housing will have any issues implementing this new housing regulation.

You might disagree with it on a moral stand point, but stop proclaiming it as illegal when you have no idea what you are talking about. Why you believe you know better then lawyers who have practiced in this area of the law for years is beyond me.

You guys are being asinine.

Satirical 5 years, 5 months ago

Eride....

"Facts? Pfffft. You can prove anything even remotely true with facts." - Homer Simpson

Shane Garrett 5 years, 5 months ago

Just for the record on kegs in the dorms. It must have been allowed in the early 80's cause that is when we partied at McCollum hall. But in those days one could also take a keg to the hill during a football game. I don't remember of anyone ever dying from drinking, in our click. But then, I don't have as many active brain cells as I used to have either. And let me take this moment to say hello to all my friends back in Larryville, Jean, Joy, Chuck & Wendy, John, Eddie, the entire cooking staff at Oliver hall, Andy, Derick, Paul, Ernie, and the rest of the gang that used to hang at the crossing. If the RA's want to break a door down in a hall, hmmmm, not my problem. (laughing with an evil tone.)

nekansan 5 years, 5 months ago

So now student housing supervisors are experts in probable cause and due process. I can just see the lawsuits now. If I were a supervisor I would not want the personal liability that would arise from entering a room. Why not just call the campus police and allow them to do their jobs and exercise the training they have in the judicial process, rather than leave it to amateurs?

snoriega 5 years, 5 months ago

I like this support for this proposal.

Jonathan Becker 5 years, 5 months ago

Everyone deplores the deaths this past year from alcohol poisoning. We want the university to take an active role in reducing alcohol consumption by underage individuals, but using phrases like 'probable cause' and 'without a warrant' gets our legal brethren foamin' at the mouth. And this policy is incomplete. Can senior housing officials enter without knocking or do they have to knock and announce or knock and wait and then enter? If they have to wait, how long? If they believe they have 'probable cause', do they have to write down what they objectively perceived before they enter, or can we give them a checklist? Are there magic words, like a Miranda warning, that they have to say as they announce, or can they just enter with no warning? Can a male senior housing official enter a female's room, or verse vica?

This one needs a little more time on the drawing boards . . .

Commenting has been disabled for this item.