Residence Halls 411: New Visitaion Policies Take Effect

Modified rules for hosting guests in university dormitories are taking effect this semester. Though students’ awareness of these policies is relatively low, the changes are being greeted with mixed reactions by those who know of them.
The modifications most affecting dorm residents pertain to the definition of an “overnight guest,” when one may be checked in as an overnight guest and how often a resident can host such a guest.
Before there was no clear-cut definition, and the text of this semester’s Fogcutter student handbook now states an overnight stay as “being inside the residence halls for more than two hours between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.”
For example, a guest remaining in a residence hall from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. and a guest staying from 7:00 p.m. the night before to 7:00 a.m. the next morning would both be considered overnight visitors.
Essentially, those hosting overnight visitors must now register their guests at the front desk of the residence hall before 7:00 p.m. on the evening of their stay.
Associate Director of Staff and Programs for the Office of Residence Life Brian Arao said, “Pre-registration requires the resident host to acknowledge that they have discussed the visit with their room and apartment-mates and secured their approval for the visit. We expect that this will reduce the frequency of roommate disputes regarding overnight guests, and provide some recourse for roommates who are negatively impacted by overnight visits to which they did not consent.”
“We [the work group] were charged with drafting a policy that is more clear, enforceable, administratively sound, socially just and consistent with the Jesuit Catholic character of USF,” said Arao. He and a member of the work group that developed the rules noted the use of student surveys and a review of the residence policies at the University of Santa Clara, when writing the revisions.
In August of 2010, the University’s vice provost for Student Development, Dr. Peter Novak, approved the revisions.
Students who have learned of the policies have expressed anything from ignorance to concern  over aspects of the guest policy both old and new.
One sophomore resident at Phelan Hall called the new rules “ridiculous,” though he admitted to not having known what the previous policy had been. He wished to remain anonymous.
Phelan Hall resident Sophie Luu was likewise not aware of any change in the guest policy. When informed, she believed the 7:00 p.m. registration rule and the 2-to-8 overnight definition was too strict.
“What if a relative flying in late at night needed a place to stay in the evening?” she asked. In her experience, dormitory hall RAs tended to be understanding; she hoped that would be the case this year as well.
“The absence of [these rules] made it difficult for residents to understand the expectations of them, and made enforcement of and communication about the policy challenging for our staff members,” Arao said. “The new policy provides the clarity that was missing in this regard.” Luu’s expectation for sympathetic RAs might be undermined by the presence of a well-defined night-stay, which gives resident advisors an easier time of enforcing the policy.
Sophomore resident Amir Mauladd seemed to have little problem with the visitation policies. “As long as [guests] keep the volume down,” he said, though he did indicate the already-existent rule limiting a resident to hosting four overnight guests per month (whether one visitor over four nights or four guests for one night, or any other combination totaling four overnight guests) insufficient.
Glenn Hogan, another sophomore resident, added, “The RAs were cool about it, though,” echoing Luu’s encounters with her past resident advisors.
For Josh Suarez, a freshman resident at Hayes-Healy Hall, the changes in policy represented a necessary security and quality-of-life measure. The issue of having room-mates consent to a surprise sleep-over guest was, for Suarez, solved by the requirement of pre-registering overnight visitors.
Still, “the 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. rule is inconvenient,” he said. “You can’t bring someone over to your room to study very often, especially if she is of the opposite sex.”
Xiomara Fuentes is also a freshman in Hayes Healy. Because of the fact that members of the same residence hall can move freely from floor to floor visiting members of both sexes, she believed the policy as it stands “punished the guests,” whether male or female, just for being of a different residence hall.Her concern addressed sections of the policy having to do with both the new requirement for the early check-in of overnight visitors and the old rule prohibiting overnighters of the opposite sex.
Arao said that the opposite-sex rule remained under consideration. “One of the revisions our work group proposed was removing the restriction on same-sex overnight guests. This particular proposal requires additional review by other members of University leadership to determine whether or not it can be adopted,” he said, noting the sensitivity in balancing USF’s Jesuit character with equality and fairness for all orientations.
Ultimately, Arao said the University left open the possibility of striking the restriction in the future: “While reasonable people can disagree about this matter, it is the opinion of the work group that such a change would in fact be consistent with said character.”
The tentativeness of this and other guest rules appeared to be affirmed by a sophomore front-desk worker in Phelan, who wished to have her name withheld. She recalled that the visitation policies in general, while meant to be standard rules for all residence halls to implement, “were still subject to change.”
The new overnight visitation policies are available for review online (though not in PDF form, which displays an older edition) in the Fogcutter student handbook under “Residence Life Policies, Regs, and Information.”
The policies were designed by a work group comprising representatives from the Office of Residence Life; the Office of Student Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities; the student-led Residence Hall Association; and University Ministry.

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