RHA pushes for changes in inspection policy

The Residence Hall Association is urging the University to institute an appeals process in which students could get back items wrongly confiscated during health and safety inspections.

University officials said the first round of inspections has been completed, and more than 1,200 items were confiscated from students’ rooms. They said there are no plans to install an appeals process and it is unlikely one will be put in place.

“The RHA fully supports health and safety inspections in the residence halls,” said RHA President Amrita Bagaria, a senior, in a statement last week. “However, our organization has found that the inspections need to be improved with regard to procedure and the rights of residents.”

The RHA, a group that represents students living in dormitories, issued a memo to University officials Nov. 17 outlining a series of recommended changes to the inspections process. The RHA is asking the University to better publicize the inspections, institute an appeals process for wrongly confiscated items and stop the sale of prohibited items at the GW Bookstore. The RHA memo also requests a copy of the contract between the University and HRH Mitigation Inc., a private firm the University has hired to conduct some inspections, to clarify what actions could be taken in the event of unacceptable behavior by inspectors.

“RHA representatives feel that the conduct of inspectors within residents’ rooms has caused some discomfort for a number of residents,” the memo says.

“Our long-term goal is not the elimination of inspections, but rather to gain a complete understanding of the University’s role in overseeing these inspections,” the memo says.

On March 22 a fire broke out on the ninth floor of Thurston Hall, leading to serious injury of one freshman. The fire department reported that a portable grill ignited the fire. Prohibited items in dorms now include fire hazards such as portable grills, candles, halogen lamps, space heaters, hotplates and toaster ovens in non-kitchen areas, as well as lofted beds, alcohol, pets and pocket knifes.

Nancy Haaga, director of Auxiliary and Institutional Services, wrote in an e-mail that the current procedures of the inspections were determined “to be the most workable and appropriate solution to get prohibited items out of residence hall rooms quickly and effectively.”

Haaga also said there are no plans to implement an appeals process for wrongly confiscated items.

“The University believes that the disadvantages of an appeals process far outweigh any advantages,” Haaga wrote. “The establishment of an appeals process would require additional new resources not currently available to administer and manage the process.”

Neither Haaga nor Bagaria said they know of confirmed cases of items taken in error, but Haaga said the University has received approximately 100 calls about the inspections.

“This number of calls represents 1.38 percent of all students affected by the health and safety inspections,” Haaga said. “Approximately 3,000 rooms were inspected which occupy nearly 7,200 students on both campuses.”

Haaga said the majority of the calls were questions rather than complaints or concerns.

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