GWPD needs permission before entering residence hall rooms

I never thought I would see a GW Police Department officer enter my room unannounced, but I was proven wrong.

I was getting ready on a Thursday morning in October and I heard someone stomp down my residence hall floor knocking on doors at about 9 a.m. At the time, I was alone and in the bathroom, so I told the person that I would be at the door in a second. But as I opened the bathroom door, I saw a GWPD officer and a staff member walk out of my room. The officer and staff member were only measuring doors, but I instantly thought something was wrong. Regardless, entering our rooms without our permission was an invasion of privacy.

The housing agreement states that University representatives are permitted to enter our rooms at any time for repair, maintenance or inspection and can conduct random room checks. But the agreement does not specify a requirement to knock on doors – and wait for someone to answer the door – before entering. The policy gives them permission to treat our rooms as their own by entering them whenever they want. Administrators must require officials to receive students’ permission before entering their rooms to give them the privacy they deserve.

My immediate reaction when I realized that GWPD had been in my room without my permission was shock. I felt uncomfortable that a stranger came into my space without my knowledge. I could not help but imagine how much worse I would have felt if I had been changing in my room when they walked in. Other students in my residence hall were sleeping and woke up to find a police officer in their room, too. It is scary to see anyone in your room when you are not expecting them, but a GWPD officer incites fear in many people because they immediately think something is wrong. Staff and GWPD need probable cause or notice to enter our space – knocking once then entering is not an adequate warning for adults who deserve privacy.

Police officers may also bring a sense of security to some students, but for many, they incite fear. There are pre-existing issues surrounding police brutality, and it is easy to understand why people might not want an officer in their rooms. The University needs to take these feelings into account and make a change in its policy so GWPD is not allowed to enter our rooms without our permission.

When I see a police officer in my residence hall room, I think something has gone wrong. GWPD officers do not always make students feel safe, so they should not be allowed to invade the one place we have to ourselves. Officials must realize that police presence in our residence halls is creating an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for many students.

There are several ways GW could have better handled the situation. The University should have sent officials and not GWPD officers to our rooms because officers can make students feel unsafe. If GWPD and staff members really needed to enter our rooms that morning, officials should have notified us beforehand through an email and asked for our permission before coming in. We need to feel safe in our own rooms, but the University chose to violate our privacy.

The University needs our permission before sending its staff or GWPD officers to our rooms. We deserve to feel safe, and the current policy does not allow for that. We should not have to give up our sense of security because of a flawed rule.

Laya Reddy, a freshman majoring in political science and music, is an opinions writer.

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