PULLMAN – The Washington State University Board of Regents approved an emergency amendment to the university’s administrative code Monday, Sept. 25, to clarify the policy on conducting routine security patrols in residence halls.
The emergency rule, which will be in effect for no more than 120 days, addresses the university’s policy on guests in the residence halls. It would continue prior practice allowing police and other university personnel to be in common areas of the halls without being escorted by a person who lives on the floor.
“What we are being asked to do today is to clarify the policies that we have been operating under for years and years,” said Kenneth Alhadeff, chair of the Board of Regents.
As is the case at many universities in the state, WSU has long conducted routine security patrols in common areas of residence halls. That policy was called into question this May by a Whitman County Superior Court ruling, which found, in part, that WSU’s rules on guests in the residence halls provided students with an expectation of privacy in those common areas.
Under the emergency rule, administrators and regents stressed that university police in the residence halls still would be guided by constitutional guidelines on search and seizure and the privacy of student rooms would be protected.
Al Jamison, interim vice president for student affairs, said that the policy clarification is important to remove uncertainties about when officers could go into common areas of the residence halls unescorted and to provide support for residence hall advisors who are not trained as law enforcement personnel.
Jamison said there have been some reports of increased noise and partying in the residence halls as a result of the elimination of the routine patrols. He said some students are reluctant to report such activity to police because of peer pressure.
At a recent regents meeting in Seattle, several members of the board expressed concern about safety and security issues in the residence halls in light of the Superior Court ruling and asked for a special meeting to consider the issue.
The university will continue to move forward with the rule-making process to make a permanent amendment to the code. In making the permanent rule, the board will consider public comments that are provided at a public hearing on the issue, scheduled for Oct. 19.
The permanent rule change is expected to be before the regents at the board’s November meeting.
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