Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of students living on campus quite like the sound of unwelcome knocking at the door.
Many freshmen have entertained the idea of drinking in their dorm, and many have also suffered the consequences.
Statements like ‘I smell weed’ or ‘I hear bottles hitting together’ may be part of the myths surrounding resident assistant culture, and students often worry that they will be followed by broken doors.
But what many students don’t realize is that when dealing with RAs, much depends on permission.
‘RAs do not enter rooms unless invited,’ Grace Hoefner, the senior assistant director of Residential Life, said. ‘These types of statements are justification, though, for a report to be written and a judicial follow-up to occur.’
Drinking in a dorm will no doubt get a student into trouble, but marijuana is dealt with differently, and will result in the University Police Department being notified.
‘All RAs are instructed to call UPD whenever they suspect what they are smelling is marijuana,’ Hoefner said. ‘UPD is called in to drinking/party situations when the students involved are not cooperating with staff member[s] ‘ or if the staff member needs back-up due to the number of students involved or whatever is happening is making them uneasy.’
What should you do when an RA knocks on your door?
At the most you can let him or her in, and at the least you could try to hide.
Not answering the door however, can have other consequences.
‘We’re told to let them know that we will call UPD,’ said Eric Mazurkewitz, an RA in Mountainview College. ‘They aren’t allowed to enter but they will wait outside and you can be documented for not cooperating.’
Trying to hide from an RA might not be a good decision, since forcing an RA to write up or document an event can force judicial action upon a student.
‘That evidence can then be put forward for possible judicial follow-up,’ Hoefner said.
Many people may be fearful of what might be found in a room and although it may not be in your best interest, you can refuse to let an RA enter.
‘At a minimum, students are expected to come out of their rooms to speak with the staff member,’ Hoefner said.
Once an RA is in your room, the need for permission continues.
‘During a policy infraction, they can do so only after seeking permission,’ Hoefner said. ‘They can and do observe anything in open drawers and closets and in plain view.’
There are times when an RA can enter and even search unannounced. The only time a container is searched without explicit consent is during ‘announced safety inspections’ and ‘at every closing’ of the semester or year. There are also situations where RAs may enter without permission.
‘ If there is a concern for someone’s health or safety (an emergency situation), the RA consults with an RD and/or UPD,’ Hoefner said in a written statement. ‘The decision may be made to enter in order to respond to the student in danger.’
Most students won’t know every rule regarding RAs entering their room, but there is one option for them. When in doubt, ask. An RA is obligated to respond truthfully when questioned on what he or she can and can’t do.