Kansas University students are continuing to address a proposed policy change that seeks to balance individual privacy rights against student safety.
KU’s suggested policy would allow senior housing officials — if denied access once after knocking — to enter students’ rooms after knocking again if a suspected policy violation were occurring.
Things that could trigger entry into rooms would include an odor of marijuana or obvious signs that alcohol was being consumed in the rooms. Full searches would not be conducted, according to Diana Robertson, KU’s director of student housing.
KU is continuing to address its alcohol-related policies following the alcohol-related deaths of two students last semester.
Last week, Robertson told students at a meeting of a KU student panel formed to address alcohol abuse that most universities had a policy similar to KU’s proposal, including most in the Big 12 Conference.
Housing officials at several Big 12 schools described a variety of experiences with housing policies.
At Kansas State University, no policy like the KU proposal exists, said Derek Jackson, associate director of housing for administrative services and residence life at K-State.
“We wouldn’t enter a room without permission unless there’s imminent danger,” Jackson said, such as a potential fire or other crisis situation.
If there’s a suspected violation involving alcohol or drugs, Jackson said, housing staff knocks at the door, and often will be granted access, he said. The police are involved if the situation warrants it.
He said he didn’t personally agree with a policy that would allow housing staff to enter a room without permission of a student for a policy violation including drug or alcohol use.
“For me, it goes against everything I’ve ever been trained in,” he said.
Other Big 12 schools, however, described their policies much like the one KU is proposing.
Matt Brown, director of student housing at Oklahoma State University, said his school has the capability to enter rooms if a violation is suspected, such as if someone detects an odor of marijuana.
“In practice, that doesn’t happen very often,” Brown said, saying his staff uses the policy maybe a half-dozen times a year. “For the most part, our students have been pretty compliant.”
The policy has its downsides, he said. For example, once administrators decide to go into a room, police are excluded from the process, as administrative and legal searches are guided by different rules.
Other Big 12 schools, including Nebraska and Colorado, have policies that allow housing officials — accompanied by police — to enter the room if a violation is suspected and they were first denied entry.
“It’s a delicate balance” of the privacy rights of students weighed against issues like protecting the physical and mental health of students and others, said Doug Zatechka, director of student housing at the University of Nebraska. “I don’t think we have a perfect policy here, and I don’t know of anyone that does.”
There remain many hurdles for the KU policy to clear. In addition to final review by the alcohol committee, approval must come from a Student Senate committee, then the full Student Senate and, finally, from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.