RAs conduct health & safety inspections

Resident advisors conducted mandatory health and safety inspections of student rooms during the first week of November. The inspections, which lasted from Nov. 1 to Tuesday, Nov. 8, were announced in an Oct. 28 email from Residence Life.
The email stated that the inspections would take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m and that RAs would key into residents dorm room if there were no answer to the RAs’ knock.
Residence Life and Education Coordinator Annie Custer clarified that the inspections were exclusively visual and that RAs would not touch anything in the rooms. She added that the inspections were administered by RAs in pairs and that a yellow note was left on the resident’s door indicating whether or not any violations have been observed.
“Some of the things that RAs (looked) for is covered fire detectors, unregistered animals, drugs and paraphernalia, underage possession of alcohol and cleanliness,” Custer said. “We sent out the email to provide students with enough time to deal with any violations before checks are conducted.”
Some students reported feeling uncomfortable with others entering their rooms in their absence.
“I’m a very private person and it’s difficult for me to allow others to be in my personal space without me being there,” said Ryan Crosier, ’24.
“I never expected that room checks would be held this way but I would prefer to be there when my room was being checked.”
Vladislav Poda, ’24, agreed, adding that student concerns must also be addressed along with RA concerns when considering health and safety inspections.
“I think it’s a good idea to get the checks done timely within a week,” Poda said. “However, students should still be given the opportunity to schedule a time that works for them because they are just as busy as RAs. If students aren’t responsive then I don’t mind RAs entering the room.”
Assistant Dean of Residence Life Michael Grasso said that students had the option to reach out to their RAs and schedule a time that allowed both the resident and the RA to be present during the room inspection.
“Our staff is very diligent and I’m sure they would be more than happy to accommodate residents,” Grasso said.
Some RAs, like Head RA of Edwards Hall Michael Abraham, ’24, have taken the initiative themselves to invite students to schedule times for room inspections.
“I sent an email to my residents telling them what the procedure of the inspection is, the things I’ll be looking out for and that they should deal with any violations before the time I decided to conduct inspections,” Abraham said. “I also sent out a Google form that allowed my residents to schedule for a time. If they didn’t schedule a time, I followed the procedure highlighted in the initial email by Residence Life.”
The method in which health and safety inspections were conducted this year was different from that of previous years.
“Last year we gave our staff a whole month to conduct checks and they would usually send their residents scheduling forms to set up a time for the checks,” Grasso said. “RAs weren’t in pairs last year and there was no inspection note left at the end of the inspection either. If students didn’t schedule, then RAs issued a master key from Public Safety and keyed in.”
What was different with the inspection method this year, Custer said, was that it enhanced efficiency and accountability and managed student and RA time.
“Having a whole month of checks is a lot to ask of RAs whose priority is being a student, so we decided to employ a method in which the inspections are done in a shorter time frame and announcing the checks gave everyone time to sort themselves out,” Custer said. “Having checks in pairs and leaving inspection notes are both ways in which we ensure that there is accountability and integrity throughout the whole process.”
Grasso said that if any violations were found they were indicated on the inspection note left at the end of the inspection and if no violations are found then the note read “no violations.”
“The RAs will return after a week to the residents who have a violation to inspect whether or not it has been dealt with,” Grasso said.
Major violations such as underage possession of alcohol and possession of drugs and paraphernalia are reported directly to Dean of Students Trae Yeckley.
“I have a chat with students who are referred to me by Residence Life after room inspections about the violations that have been reported,” Yeckley said. “My goal is not to intimidate students but to help them so I make sure to provide them with the right resources and training to help them get through their situation.”
Yeckley said that this year, no student has been fined and that very few students have been referred to them as a result of the room inspections.
Yeckley added that Residence Life’s goal is to ensure that students are happy with the space they occupy and that they want to help students rather than reprimand them.
“We are always trying to find different ways to collaborate with the student body in making their residence experience more enriching during their time at Allegheny,” Yeckley said.
Grasso said that the new method of room inspections is part of the process of finding new ways to improve living on campus. He added that this was the first time the method was implemented and its effectiveness will be measured.
“We are always looking to improve and we will continue to pursue the best practices and make sure that our staff and the students are equally comfortable,” Grasso said. “Having a system where RAs have the master key and the ability to key in while as well as initially offering students a scheduling method is something that we would be open to in the future should it be the best possible option.”