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MIT Plans Dorm Room Inspections

By Kevin R. Lang

MIT’s Residential Fire Safety Committee and the Dormitory Council are currently planning to implement semesterly safety inspections of dorm rooms.

DormCon President and committee member Jennifer A. Frank ’00 said the committee and DormCon are currently working on a plan in cooperation with the administration.

“We’re trying to give them a proposal on how to do it that will make it best for everyone,” said DormCon Secretary-Treasurer Brandy L. Evans ‘01. “Right now, I think people are working on the final drafts of the proposal.”

According to MIT housing policy, “the Institute reserves the right to enter a room or apartment at any time when imminent danger to life, safety, health or property is reasonably suspected as determined by the [Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs], the House Manager or their authorized representative.” Fire safety inspections would most likely fall under this category.

More specifically, “The Institute also reserves the right, with advance notice to the residents whenever reasonably possible... to inspect for fire and health hazards...”

Inspections not quite searches

“I think people are wrongly getting the impression that this is related to incidents and that this is a room search,” Frank said. “It’s not so that MIT can come into a room looking for probable cause to do a search.”

Evans said that the inspections are intended to be purely for fire safety purposes. The inspections would be pre-scheduled.

Frank said that she did not think any one specific incident had prompted the decision to begin inspecting rooms. “This is intended to avoid that type of incident,” Frank said. MIT would liable in case of fire.

“This is something that MIT hasn’t done in a long time,” Frank said. She thought that MIT used to conduct regular safety inspections in past years, but that they gradually fell out of practice.

Forums scheduled for discussion

Frank hoped that the committee and DormCon could make the inspection policy work for both sides.

“We’re bringing it up to the residents so they can discuss their concerns,” Frank said.

Students will be able to discuss room inspections at several forums in the coming weeks. The first will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on November 22, in East Campus’ Talbot Lounge. The second is from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on November 30 in Burton-Conner House.

The Residential Fire Safety Committee is chaired by Housing Finance & Administration General Manager Carl A. Seagren. Also on the committee are Burton-Conner housemaster Halston W. Taylor, Assistant Residential Life Dean Carol Orme-Johnson, and Residential Life and Student Life Programs Director Phillip M. Bernard.