An open letter to ResLife

Letters to the Editor

A page on Facebook based on this letter formed a few weeks ago. Check out the April 13 issue of The Collegian for the full story. Here’s the letter, which was sent to us.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter on behalf of the majority of students residing in the residential halls, many of whom have formally signed a petition endorsing this letter. In the past two years of on campus residency, I have become increasingly concerned with a number of policies implemented by SDSU Residential Life. On behalf of the frustrated and concerned students, I ask for evaluation of the policies implemented by the Residential Life organization.

I would like to begin by addressing the policy of room and bag searches. The way residential life members have handled this matter is unacceptable. As state employees, without a warrant, entering dorm rooms for any reason, other than for health and safety searches without ample notice, is a violation of the 4th Amendment. This was determined by the case of Ohio v. Ellis. If one court case was not enough, in January 2011, Commonwealth v. Daniel Carr upheld this same principle in a Federal district court that residential life staff and police cannot search dorm rooms without warrants.

My concern with bag searches is particularly strong. As I am sure every student and residential life staff member is aware, on Hobo Day, “mandatory bag searches” were conducted as you entered the dorms. This is illegal for the university to do. It is not the right of the university to search students’ bags. It is the students’ right to not be subject to unlawful search and seizure.

At this time, I wish to bring up a very serious, and often overlooked, issue. I wish to ask how the cost of our rooms is at such high rates. Considering the weeks we get to live here, the cost per month is $405 to live in Binnewies (one of the cheaper dorms on campus). Jackrabbit Village and Caldwell are $490/month. A single in Jackrabbit Village is $540. I have already found many apartments and houses off campus that run anywhere from $275 to $350. On campus, we do not use a stove or any other appliances to cook food. We have very limited square foot of our own space. When you divide the common areas among the students, it seems unreasonable to say we get our money’s worth. I am simply asking for public justification for the steep prices on campus when students are mandated to live here for two years. I tend to believe if you are “forced” to do something; it should have amble reasoning behind it.

I would next like to address the problem of being allowed only one fridge in our dorms. Upon discussion with residential assistants and RHDs, it was explained the reasoning for this is due to power draw. If this is the case, I feel this decision may have been made without considering other such sources of power draw. A fridge is rated at 1 – 1.5 amps, equivalent to 2 – 3 60-watt bulbs. A television has a draw of 1.5 – 3.0 amps. A microwave, even limited at the size of 700 watts, as stated in the Residential Life Handbook, produces 6 amps. So quit sidestepping the issue, this policy is nonsense. In the foreseeable future, the energy consumption of the dorms residents will not decrease. This issue needs to be addressed in a proactive, logical manner.

Finally I would like to address the key locks on the fire exits. My RHD informed me this is for safety measures.  It is argued that this forces people that have intent to cause harm to walk past the front desk. However, residents simply let other people in, or the door is pried open.  Therefore, how has this increased security? Plus, is the front desk expected to know who has the intent to enter the building to do harm or who is simply entering to go to their own room or visit a resident? Now consider someone who is in a dangerous situation outside, is it better to have one entrance or multiple entrances to enter a safe building?  This policy, while good in intentions, is flawed and has led to more headaches than solutions.  Is there truly harm done by allowing access to students at fire exits?

On this note, you might find students are more responsive when they are treated as adults, as they legally are, rather than sheep being herded without a say in the direction they are headed. History brings out numerous examples of the problems of non-representative, unjustified policies. Please, ask our opinion first, do not just enforce policies. This is a public university; act in a democratic manner that has the concern of students in mind. Then finally when a policy is enacted, explain your reasoning publicly. Case in point, “Effective January 1, these doors will be permanently locked” was not adequate explanation. Statements like this have the tendency to agitate an already irritated group of young adults.


Aaron Peterson