Random Room Search! And We’re Only Kind of Joking

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Earlier today Housing Services sent out an email detailing new procedures for fire drills. Apparently, “during these fire drills and any other fire alarm, all students are required by law to exit the building.” Seems straightforward enough. But, in a Dean Wormer-like attempt to put a stop to shenanigans, soon a combination force of people from Public Safety, Housing Services and Residential Programs will also be SWAT-teaming your rooms!

The valiant bureaucratic coalition may begin to implement random room inspections during all fire alarms sometime this semester, all to prevent that heinous habit of realizing that you’d rather do something else than practice your stair-descending skills. So if your habit is to stand your ground and turn on your iPod during fire alarms, you may need to reconsider, or face Dean’s Discipline.

But let’s be honest: you can always pretend you slept through said alarm. The more pressing concern for some of us might be the accidental discovery of any, er, not-law-abiding items you leave behind. That’s everything from halogen lamps to things that are against state and federal law. Find a list of other items Columbia prohibits below.

What kind of trouble you will get in for having a halogen lamp, Bwog isn’t sure. Just hide it in your closet before leaving your room. Since the SWAT teams are just checking to make sure you’ve left, they won’t be searching through your things to screw you over. They’re not thaaaat evil.

Things Columbia prohibits:

  • Your own space heater
  • Any gigantic container of alcohol (no matter how old you are)
  • All alcohol if you are a wee lad or lass (i.e. under 21)
  • Halogen lamps
  • Airconditioners
  • Grills, other than those cute little George Foreman ones
  • Steam vaporizers
  • Waterbeds (though Bwog’ll give you points for sex-ayness)
  • Any cooking appliance being used in your room (just turn it off and you’re golden)
  • Your own microwave (not ok under any circumstances. Well, except for all non-fire drill circumstances)
  • Pets other than fish and your registered friendly seeing-eye dog
  • Gigantic fridges (over 2.5 cubic feet)
  • Smoking devices such as a hookah, pipe, or bong that one uses for tobacco
  • Weapons of any kind (including martial arts, which is silly)
  • Evidence that you are running a business of any kind out of your room
  • If you’ve painted your wall or cabinet or anything, even if you intend to repaint it, watch out.
  • Illegal substances (Wait, when did this get added?)

Original Housing Services Email

Dear Students,

Throughout the Spring semester, please be advised that staff members from Housing Services, Public Safety, and Residential Programs will partner together to conduct a random number of room inspections during the pre-scheduled fire drills that are mandated by New York City law.  During these fire drills and any other fire alarm, all students are required by law to exit the building.  As the welfare and safety of our students are our utmost concern, our objective is to ensure that students are, in fact, evacuating their rooms and buildings in a quick and orderly fashion.  Any student found in their room will be subject to Dean’s Discipline and must attend an educational program.  At some point in the Spring semester, we may begin to implement random room inspections during all fire alarms.

Thank you for your cooperation with these fire safety procedures.


Joyce Jackson, Executive Director, Housing Services

Jose Rosado, Director of Morningside Operations, Public Safety

Cristen Kromm, Assistant Dean of Community Development and Residential Programs

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  1. an RA  

    man, when did we become the administration's storm troopers?

  2. way to  

    make it sound like the room inspections are required by law, columbia. way to bust in on us. thanks :)

  3. community  

    I love the way Cristen Kromm appeared last in here as though we don't know her intentions to destroy the little bit of community we do have. I hate her.

  4. Krommdor...  

    Is back. Last year it was making RA's available to "counsel" students if they witnessed a "traumatic" incident like the Radio Perfecto shooting, this year it's playing Big Brother. We all know fire alarms are caused by two things on this campus: (1) shitty cooking; (2) lazy Public Safety officers illegally pulling an alarm to break up a party.

    Give me a break. Go back to Barnard, Kromm.

  5. cc'09  

    Gross. Maybe in my last 4 months of college I can avoid being at home for any fire drills.

  6. wait  

    what constitutes giant containers of booze? just kegs - or value-sized vodka?

  7. napster  

    hey, i've made it all four years here without being caught for illegal downloading. i think i can make it four months without getting my room searched.

  8. 2010  

    sometimes I wish I never had to leave Columbia...other times I cant wait to GTFO

  9. 1984  

    I have a feeling this is going to be used to "randomly" inspect the rooms where public safety suspects are having a party or "randomly" inspect the rooms of students suspected to use illegal substances.

    Or maybe they are just cracking down on illegal hotpots and microwaves?

  10. Lady Liberty  

    Wait... How is this not a violation of our privacy rights? or do students give up their rights when they are admitted into private school?
    ...Kind of like prison....

    • contract  

      "X. Inspection: The university reserves the right to enter an assigned space for reasons of health, safety or emergency; for the purpose of insuring compliance with these Terms and Conditions of Residence; for inventory; and for making necessary repairs."

      I think a possible way to go is to ask how "random" the searches are. For the subway random searches, the NYPD "exercise[s] no discretion in selecting whom to search, but rather employ a formula that ensures they do not arbitrarily exercise their authority"

  11. if you get caught  

    you get to watch a video from the 80s about how dangerous fire is. and talk to firemen.

  12. oh that video!  

    is it the one with the stern asian woman in a puffy-sleeved blue dress who admonishes you at every turn that "you shouldn't have..."? because I loved that video! it made me ROFL.

  13. yes that video!  

    if it is indeed the video with the stern asian woman that video is absolutely hilarious. It embodies any possible goodness that can come from a crappy outdated education video

  14. damn it  

    I'll have to remember to hide my illegal appliances (toaster oven & coil burner are illegal, yes?) next fire drill. Maybe if the floor kitchen wasn't so fucking disgusting I wouldn't have to cook in my room.

  15. hang on  

    for the monthly fire alarm tests that are posted all over the place and say we don't have to leave - do we now have to leave?

  16. yea

    i'm pretty sure you don't have to leave during a fire drill. it is just to test the equipment.

  17. CC 09  

    I always tease Barnard girls about how their RAs will come and take their coffeemakers during room inspections, looks like I'm getting my comeuppance.

    Unfortunately, they did mention room searches as a possibility in our contracts, so it's totally legal. Still, it's pretty low of them to make this change in enforcement halfway through my contract term.

    I feel bad for future classes-- when I arrived in Fall 2005 there was still some fun and danger to be had around here. (IE, Hot Jazz, no EC sign-in limit bullshit, skeezy bars that would gladly accept your fake, 40s on 40). It's sad that even this year's freshmen know only this empty husk of what was already a handicapped social scene.

    Eager pre-frosh, heed this advice: If you intend to enjoy any sort of drunken debauchery in college, invest in an impeccable fake ID; or withdraw your Columbia application and go to a state school in the midwest.

  18. this

    is total bullshit and an infringement on rights. where the fuck is ccsc now?

  19. frankly

    you don't have rights here. You signed the housing contract, probably without reading it, and now you live with it.

    If you wanted rights you should have gone to a good public university.

  20. alumnus

    if you guys think these guys are tough, wait until you go in front of a co-op board in 15-20 years.

    Ah, the naivete of youth...

  21. first year >.  

    I like how this new policy was allowed to be exercised today in John Jay. Ay.

  22. comment 5  

    was hilarious. i am sorry it is gone.

  23. nuts  

    24 packs are considered "large amounts" now. I think next time, I'll place a Heineken keg can (the tiny ones) on a PS desk to try to get them to write me up for bringing a keg into housing

  24. Zack  

    My actual e-mail to housing thanking them for one more reason to move off campus:
    Dear Housing,

    I consider the entering of my personal space a serious violation and am hoping you hear some protest from the student councils. I understand very well the importance of leaving one's room during a fire emergency (which, unfortunately, our fire alarms almost never actually are), and always leave my room during an alarm. The fact that housing, though, is using some students' reticence to leave their room for "boy who cried wolf" fire alarms as an excuse to enter into our rooms and complete a "random search," seems downright unconstitutional (though, legally, I'm sure any challenge would fail in court).


  25. hmm..  

    this kromm lady just seems to be taking in loco parentis a bit too far. she sounds like she's paranoid of any columbia liability for anything, which can be used as an excuse to shut down parties, search a room during a fire alarm, etc -- all to ensure that columbia is not liable for any "harm" that may come to a columbia student.

  26. Columbia

    Is fucking itself over. Each year from 06 onwards seems to harbor more and more anger at how little the admin seem to care about students happiness/privacy/rights/fun/everything. Although maybe those that never knew it any different don't care. But I feel like 07,08 and 09 alumni donations will be pretty low in the future.

  27. IANAL  

    But I think the purpose of most of the kinds of clauses people are complaining about aren't really enforceable, they're just there to make a lawsuit more intimidating. High schools generally doing truly random searches of lockers usually isn't admissible, so I would expect that if it was ever in question whether you would be charged for a crime or thrown out of housing based on the evidence from one of their searches they would have to back off because they couldn't win in court.

  28. just  

    was exercised in the LLC. thanks housing. really. i love pneumonia, especially for fire alarms that go off and, hmmm, no firemen come. interesting.

  29. hmm  

    there is absolutely no legitimate reason to implement these other than to make us all HATE THE ADMINISTRATION. Maybe that's what they want?


  30. Get Over It

    I understand the bewilderment of many of the students, but all of your are missing a crucial point here - all CU students abandonment many "rights" when they agreed, under contract, to live in Housing.

    You don't get to bitch about "invasion of privacy" when you signed the dotted-line, if you wanted privacy, you'd get your own place not under the wing of Big Brother CU - so does it suck that they might randomly search your place? Yes. Is it fair? Absolutely - but like true CU students - we'll bitch to no end about anything we can.

    'Cause we are THAT generation

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