RLHS codifies room entry policy

Residence Life and Housing Services officials implemented a revised protocol this Fall for residence hall staff and Duke police to follow when responding to suspicion of drug use.

It was drafted in April in response to "several incidents" last year concerning suspected drug use, particularly involving marijuana, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek said.

In April, Duke University Police Department officers confiscated "leafy-green vegetable matter," white powder and pills from a room in Randolph Dormitory. The two freshmen residents told The Chronicle then that the substances were not drugs and alleged that police officers had entered their room to view the substances without permission.

The RLHS protocol is meant to serve as a clarification and guideline for resident assistants and residence coordinators rather than debut new policies or changes, said Terry Lynch, RLHS assistant dean for staff development and Central Campus.

"It helps us as far as having some level of consistency between our RA teams in handling situations," Wasiolek said. "[Another] one of the issues we had was that students didn't know frankly what their rights were. They were unfamiliar with our policy."

According to the protocol, if the amount of the substance DUPD confiscates does not indicate that it was meant for distribution, then police must forward the report to Judicial Affairs and "generally citations will not be issued." Otherwise, DUPD may follow their criminal procedures to investigate the suspects.

Furthermore, RAs must contact DUPD if they are suspicious of drug use, rather than confronting students or attempting to enter their room. If suspected residents are not in their rooms or refuse to open the door when police officers arrive, DUPD must notify them by shouting through the door that a police report will be filed, which will be forwarded to Judicial Affairs, and RLHS administrative staff may enter the room on another visit for suspicion of drugs. An RLHS assistant dean must send the latter statement in an e-mail to residents.

The guidelines, however, have not been publicly released to students. RLHS officials introduced the protocol to RAs at their general training in August.

Several students said the policy should be made known to those living on campus.

"Students should know what RAs and RCs can or can't do. We already know what police do, there are laws for that," senior Jonathan Jou said. "Legal action might be incurred, and if it's on paper, it's a lot easier to defend yourself."

Sophomore Geoff Silver said he thought the policy was important enough to be announced rather than "go under the radar" until it may be violated.

DUPD officials were involved in shaping the guidelines, said Maj. Gloria Graham, DUPD operations commander.

The protocol provides greater clarification on which situations should be handled by the administration and which should be handled by law enforcement, she added.

"Sometimes, just because something is a violation of law doesn't necessarily mean you have to arrest someone on it," Graham said. "That philosophy wasn't really clear."

An RA in Randolph Dorm who asked not to be named said he was not aware of the newly written guidelines. He added that when confronted with an incident of suspicious drug use, residence staff usually go by how police tell them to act.

"I think most RAs probably aren't too concerned about it because in the end we will only open a door if the police ask us to open it, so as long as DUPD knows about it, whether or not RAs know about it doesn't really matter," he wrote in an e-mail.

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