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ORANGE COUNTY COMMENTARY

Dorm Rules Spark Battle in Boston

June 23, 2002|DAISY YU | Daisy Yu of Huntington Beach recently completed her second year at Boston University.

It is common for college students to spend an entire weekend without leaving their dorm buildings. Everything they need is conveniently located down a flight of stairs: the laundry room, cafeteria, workout room, computer lab, study lounge, even a smoking area.

Furthermore, their best friends and classmates are just across the hall or in the next room. College dorms are microcosms within the school community. Each building often has its own administrative staff and student councils that run the residence hall associations.

Throughout the year, these associations host barbecues and coordinate community service activities to urge the residents to become involved in their dorm and school life. Many universities strongly encourage first-year students to live in the dorms. Some even make this mandatory for incoming freshmen.

With the alarming rate of student suicides at colleges around the nation, parents and schools are eager to smooth the transition for freshmen who choose to live away from home.

Thanks to the easy access to dorm amenities, new students are able to better concentrate on their studies, instead of struggling to decide what to make for dinner or to find a Laundromat.

Dorm life, however, can become restrictive for students after their first and second years. Most juniors and seniors cringe at the thought of having to live in the controlled facility that their parents and even they once craved as incoming college students.

The constant hamburgers and hot dogs at lunchtime become monotonous. The washers and dryers are always jammed. The elevators are broken for weeks at a time. Nobody ever uses the workout room. But the biggest complaint of many college students is a university's dorm guest policy.

This year, Boston University made the pages of the Boston Globe when a student group titled BU Free presented a 78-page report to university leaders. The proposal consisted of suggestions regarding the policy of guest visitors written by both parents and students.

Current policy at the university mandates that students who do not live in a particular dorm cannot stay past midnight. Students are also allowed only five overnight guests per semester. Furthermore, the students must submit forms for overnight guests at least one day in advance and by Thursday for weekend guests.

The proposal calls for 24-hour access for Boston University students to all dorms and an increase in the number of overnight guest passes.

Although the spring 2002 term has ended, talks between the Student Union and Boston University President Jon Westling continue with no word on whether the school will change its policy.

The controversy heightened when Chancellor John Silber wrote a letter to the student-run newspaper attempting to justify the current policy. He wrote, "We imposed this [guest] policy to put an end to the interruption of students' study time and sleep by roommates thoughtless enough to bring their sexual partners to the room for sessions of fun and games.

"I had many complaints from students that they were unable to sleep in their own dormitory rooms because of interference by lovemaking roommates. Some of them found it offensive to be put in the position of being voyeurs. Some, I suppose, were sufficiently old-fashioned to suppose that intimate relationships should not be engaged in as public performances."

The bureaucracy of living in a dorm can be stifling, and the argument relies on where the line between the university as a learning institution and as a baby-sitter is drawn. However, Silber's remark puts him in the position of parent and the students as children.

While students argued that an extended guest policy would allow them to be able to conduct longer study sessions and project meetings, Silber chose to focus on the logistics of a student's love life.

It is important to keep in mind that college students are adults. Their personal lives are indeed personal.

Living in a dorm is like living in a fantasy land. In the real world, you do not need permission to study with your friend in her room or have your roommate and another person from the opposite sex approve that your boyfriend visit from New York.

More and more students are searching for apartments where they can control their diets and invite friends over without permission. Even though apartments tend to be more expensive and subletting the rooms in the summer can be complicated, it's worth it for the freedom the university cannot offer in a dorm setting.

While most first-year students enjoy the protection that the dorms afford, older students realize that although they are living away from home, they are not truly on their own. The battle over the guest policy at one East Coast university makes that much clear.

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