On Sept. 19, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) conducted a fire drill on every residence hall in the College, testing the emergency phones and fire alarm systems across the campus. Over the course of the drill, during which students had to evacuate their rooms, each room was checked individually and scanned for both fire safety violations and other banned substances. CSS recorded a total of 37 violations, including five students who had failed to evacuate their rooms, nine students who were in possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia and eight students with prohibited appliances such as Crock-Pots, toasters and Keurigs.
Director of CSS Dave Boyer emphasized that these searches were standard procedure and perfunctory.
“Officers made a plain view scan of the room for violations of College policy and Massachusetts state law,” Boyer said. “All searches [were] in plain view and in most cases took a matter of seconds.” The purpose of the drill, he added, was not to seize prohibited products, but rather to ensure the College’s preparedness for any future fires.
The sanctions for violations during room searches vary greatly, but expulsion is possible for repeat offenders. Students who failed to leave their rooms were given a written warning for their first violation, and an additional $100 fine for their second. Evidence of smoking carried a stricter $250 fine for first offenders, and students were eligible for suspension or dismissal on their second offense. Though no smoke detectors were covered up during this fire drill, 10 rooms were found with other signs of smoking, including odors, ashtrays, burn marks and cigarette butts. For students found with marijuana, CSS immediately contacted local police authorities and students faced both campus disciplinary measures and Massachusetts state law. Possession of an amount less than one ounce carries a civil fine of $100 in Massachusetts, but possession of larger amounts can result in prosecution and ineligibility for financial aid. In all cases, College policies and/or Massachusetts state law, rather than CSS, determined penalties for forbidden substances found in rooms.
Additional infractions included two traffic cones, one unauthorized pet and one inflated pool. “I didn’t see it, but I believe it was a large kiddie pool,” Boyer said.
According to Boyer, CSS found far fewer infractions than in other drills over the past 10 to 15 years.
“I’d be the happiest guy on campus if student violations disappeared; enforcement is never enjoyable,” Boyer said. Indeed, only 22 rooms contained appliances or materials that were a direct fire hazard, with the other 15 violations including illicit substances, animals or a failure to evacuate the room.
CSS and Facilities are responsible for the conductance of all of the College’s fire drills, which occur on a biannual basis. Another drill will take place this spring.