Editorial: Inspections violate students’ privacy

Most young men and women go to college looking forward to the freedom associated with leaving the parental nest. They look forward to staying out as late as they choose, eating ice cream for breakfast if their hearts desire and being unconstrained by the rules. However, they do not look forward to returning from a week’s vacation to find their privacy violated.

This is what Northeastern served to students when administrators decided to skip the protocol and “investigate” on-campus housing for fire hazards during Spring Break last week. Under normal circumstances, the Northeastern License Agreement states flyers notifying inspections must be posted one week in advance before any Northeastern officials can enter residence halls without the permission of students. In the event of an emergency, this law can be disregarded.

Although the students of some residence halls received notices, most were not aware of the inspections before they happened. They came home to find furniture moved and their rooms in disarray. Furthermore, the policy of notifying students was inconsistent – some came home to find notes on their beds while others waited several days for an explanation. This caused some students to report to Northeastern University Police Department that their rooms were mysteriously in disarray.

The university room inspections come on the heels of a recent fire in which two Boston University students died. In addition, the fire occurred at an off-campus apartment, not a residence hall. Although tragic, this incident does not excuse Northeastern’s behavior. No matter the reasoning, the threat of potential fires was not so imminent that students’ civil liberties and privacy could be pushed aside. And what for? Simply to make sure fire escape access was not blocked. These safety checks could have been done just as effectively after break, giving students ample warning.

As students at a co-op school, we are sent into the workplace as adults. We’re trusted to go to class, live on our own and basically be functioning human beings. To enter a student’s space without his or her knowledge shows a lack of respect. Over the course of the year, residence hall rooms essentially become the student’s space, not the school’s. Northeastern may own our beds and desks, but there’s a certain expectation that strangers will not be traipsing through a person’s bedroom without permission.

It may be the fire escapes now, but this sets a dangerous precedent. Does this mean school officials can barge into students’ rooms whenever they deem it is necessary to the safety of students, regardless of real reason? We hope not. The students deserve an apology and a guarantee this won’t happen again.

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