Kansas University students have rejected a policy that would have allowed residence hall staff members to enter rooms, after knocking, if they have reason to believe illegal activity is occurring inside.
The plan was aimed at illegal drinking and drug use and was crafted in response to two alcohol-related student deaths during the last year. Last week, the KU Student Senate’s Student Rights Committee unanimously rejected the policy citing privacy concerns.
Today’s KU students certainly are not the first to argue that they are adults and should be free from university restrictions, even if they live in housing that is owned and operated by the university. In the last four decades, KU has largely dropped its parental role by eliminating closing hours, loosening visitation rules and removing other restrictions.
It works pretty well until something bad happens. For some students, it’s simply a matter of getting kicked out of a residence hall. Unfortunately, in the two recent cases, it involved student deaths. When such things happen, parents want answers. Even if they understand their child’s responsibility in an incident, they want to know why the university didn’t do something to stop it.
Fortunately, KU has approved new policies that allow it to communicate with parents when their sons or daughters are caught using drugs or violating alcohol policies. That only works, however, if students are caught. Perhaps the residence hall policy that was under consideration could have been abused by staff members or had other flaws, but the recent events argue that some kind of tougher enforcement policy is in order.
Other policies approved by the students included an educational media campaign and public service announcements — the same type of efforts that students have repeatedly scoffed at as ineffective in curbing illegal drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s possible, but reportedly unlikely, that the KU administration will override the Student Senate group’s rejection of the residence hall policy. If so, the students who see that decision as a victory for student rights also should be willing to share the responsibility for any future injuries or deaths that a new, tougher policy might have prevented.