Room checks: An invasion of privacy

The year is 2019. What few rights to privacy that were once enjoyed are now, tragically, no more.  Corporations worldwide have been gradually expanding upon their accumulation and manipulation of user analytics. There is now an unspoken tradeoff that comes along with using their services: users consent to allow their own information to be included in already-massive compilations of data.

If you think these entrance fees are exclusive to social media and online presence, you may be sorely mistaken. Here at Colby, the entrance fee is not limited to the form of tuition. When they register to live in college housing, each and every student implicitly consents to enduring a series of room checks throughout the semester.

On top of the existing pre-break closing room checks, students are now forced to maintain an additional two-week-long facade of cleanliness and healthy living in order to pass an additional round of room checks instituted by the College this past spring semester. CAs outlined the goals the administration has for these room checks in dorm emails, stating that “the health and safety component of the break checks are in addition to the break closing process to allow residents the opportunity to address concerns throughout the year.” To be perfectly clear, these concerns mentioned above are those of the College, not of the students, and may be better phrased as “infractions of the student handbook.”

These checks have generally received mixed reviews. Proponents of the new room checks may argue that they serve as a method of congratulating students whose rooms pass inspections. It’s a way for the College to tell its students, “Hey, you have empirically proven that you have hygiene at its most basic level down pat – congratulations for meeting the lowest bar possible.” One such advocate for these checks, Jack MacPhee ’21, recounted the rollercoaster of emotions he rode during his room check.

“After failing last [year‘s health and safety check] for string lights draped over a pipe, I had my doubts about escaping with a clean inspection sheet, thinking I could have missed something. But I was ecstatic when I saw that there was not a hazard to be found and I had a perfectly safe room,” MacPhee said, whom many consider to be a candidate for the distinguished honor of the Campus’s Most Improved Roommate.

On the other hand, the students whose rooms have not yet been checked for irrefutable evidence of health and safety may be living in constant fear that their own domiciles are, in fact, unsafe. With some students even going so far as to hang their certificates of approval out on display for the rest of the dorm to admire (and possibly seethe in envy), it’s not hard to imagine that those still awaiting their verdict may become increasingly nervous.

There are also students who are quick to point out the flaws of the current system in place, which does come with at least one loophole. Some of the more perceptive students may have caught on to the fact that although the exact time of the room check is purposely not shared with residents, the window of all room checks is less than two weeks. Meaning, whatever glaring health or safety misdemeanors are contained in one’s room can be addressed just in time to receive a stamp of approval from the College.  Once the room checks have been conducted, students may theoretically regress to their normal living conditions with no regard for the rules set out in the handbook

It goes without saying that Colby’s validation should be of the utmost importance to their student body – if not the College, what governing body will officially declare a student’s living habits as minimally acceptable? Or, at the very least, not yet at a reprehensible level of squalor?  It is thus absolutely critical that the appearance of clean and healthy living quarters be maintained for the thirty seconds per semester that Colby staff spend in each room for an inspection.

As checks wrap up this Friday, Nov. 15, feel free to breathe a sigh of relief and bask in the glory – or commiserate in self-pity – of the results of your room check. That is, until the next round.