I can has right to privacy too?
February 19, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Damn silly college "visitation hours" rules at a public state university. Help me fight the man?

I'm a sophomore here at Austin Peay in Clarksville, TN. Love the school, truly I do, and I love living on campus as well. I'm fine with most of the rules here, like the no alcohol, etc., etc. However, we also have what is, in my opinion, one of the silliest things I've ever heard:

Opposite-gender visitation hours are 8 a.m.-midnight. A violation is a write-up. Four violations of this rule, and you are kicked off campus (I believe.) Lobbies are 24-hour visitation spots, but there is absolutely nothing in them, and we can't, for instance, have movie parties there anyway (copyright laws, it's considered "public use".)

I should also make clear that this goes for EVERY dorm on campus, including the outside motel-style ones (not just the traditional "hallway" styles.) The only dorms that have 24-hour visitation are one Honors dorm for juniors and seniors only that is about 20 minutes away from the main campus, and the "family residence" non-traditional housing, which most students can't live in anyway.

There are two questions here:

First and foremost, why? Is there a legal reason for this I don't know about? I am friends with many RAs on other campuses, and apparently this policy is fairly rare, particularly for a whole campus. I'm also friends with many RAs here, and they absolutely loathe it. I understand the need for visitation hours in an enclosed dorm, but for every main-campus living quarter? Really?

Secondly, what can I do about it? I don't know anyone who likes this rule, and it definitely gets ignored anyway. All it does is make us feel like Anne Frank every time we stay over at our significant other's place.

We just got a new president here. What, do you think, would be the most effective form of reaching him with the news that this rule is outdated and no longer serves student needs? A letter-writing campaign? A petition? What's worked for you in the past? Any suggestions would be awesome.
posted by WidgetAlley to Law & Government (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Damn! I should also add that this is not simply for off-campus, non-university affiliated visitors, but for other students as well. Also, we are allowed to have same-sex visitors over at whatever hour we please.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:08 PM on February 19, 2008


That's... odd. At the public university I went to, same and opposite-gender guests were treated the same; you could have them signed as your guest until 2am without extra paperwork; and anyone could get an overnight pass. Nothing nearly that crazy.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2008


My undergrad was catholic, to the point that we were tightly affiliated with a monastery. We had the rules you mention for our freshman and sophomore dorms, but not for juniors and seniors.

It's obviously a little easier to answer the "why" question with the whole Catholicism thing, but if you're looking for secular reasons, I suppose trying to cut down on single motherhood and the like could be offered as a suggestion.

Your ResLife director probably holds the power here, at least as much as your prez; I'd start there and find out what the policies are. As for persuasion, I would gather as much information as I could on comparable universities (look at things like academic standards, size, public v. private) and compare it to what you guys have.

Or, just ignore the rule like everybody else. Though that's not a very sexy (HA!) answer.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2008


We had this policy in our dorm at a large state university. No guests of opposite sex after 2 am Sunday-Thursday. However, it was a co-ed dorm (boys and girls living on the same floor), so we'd just get someone else to sign our guest in and then have them stay with us. No ban on guests of the same sex, obviously. I never really understood the opposite-sex ban, because if that's meant to prevent sexy shenanigans, it's only affecting the heteros.
posted by kidsleepy at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


First and foremost, why?

Well, some would say it helps to protect the privacy rights of all students. Let's say you have a roommate whose girlfriend sleeps over every single night. Is that fair to all the other roommates? Not really. I can see why a college would put rules in place that prevent student couples from playing house on their parents' dime (although, as you point it, there's a pretty big loophole for same-sex couples).

I went to a private college that had even stricter rules (I think it was 6-10 on all weeknights except Thursday, which had no hours, and 12-11 on weekends), and there were people there who did not like them, either. Your best bet for something like this is to go through Residence Life- start at the bottom, work your way to the top. It will probably take a long time; you might not reap the fruits of your labor. And you may find that other students either don't support you (after all, the rules weren't a secret when you applied, right?) or don't care enough to get involved in the work of changing the rules (writing letters, meeting with school officials, researching similar policies at "sister" schools), which will be discouraging. I would think your best tactic would be to show the school how the policy is negatively affecting the school in a student's process for picking a school. How you could prove that, I'm not sure- interviewing prospective students? Surveying prospects on internet forums?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


They had a rule like that when I was in college, like 15 years ago. I always thought the reason behind the rule was so that every student would have a room to sleep in that didn't have two other people having sex in it. Because that is hard to sleep through.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I never really understood the opposite-sex ban, because if that's meant to prevent sexy shenanigans, it's only affecting the heteros.

Fuck. You just found #8602.b on the Gay Agenda: Prevent heteros in college from sleeping together so that they all turn gay.

Ahem.

In real terms, there's probably not a whole lot you can do about this. I'm often loath to suggest litigation as a solution for problems that should simply be talked through, but I wonder if there is a discrimination case available. To wit: same-sex partners can stay over without any trouble, but opposite-sex cannot. On its face that seems discriminatory to me, but IANAL; IjustlikeANAL.

I mean sure, it would open a can of worms that, depending on how reactionary the administration is, could easily lead to no guests being allowed, period. I doubt that's likely.. can you imagine how insane the entire campus would go?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:23 PM on February 19, 2008


Whoa. I went to APSU (read: I dropped out of APSU after my freshman year two years ago). Weird stuff...

Anyway, mysterious person who also goes to the same small college I went to, most RAs I know/knew were fairly lenient with that rule, knowing that it was outdated. Most people just ignored it altogether. I always thought it was just the conservative environment of the area that kept the rule going for as long as it has. I don't see it lasting much longer, though.

I remember the whole "no one can smoke except in the parking lot" rule was the big hullabaloo during my year at the school, and the biggest opponents of the rule found their voice in The All-State (campus newspaper) of all places. There was one particularly biting letter to the editor that garnered a personal response in the paper from Dr. Hoppe, who was president at the time. I would think that the same type of thing could catch the attention of the new president as well. At least it might stir up some talk about the issue.

Good luck, and go Govs!
posted by joshrholloway at 12:24 PM on February 19, 2008


I always thought the reason behind the rule was so that every student would have a room to sleep in that didn't have two other people having sex in it. Because that is hard to sleep through.

A fairly logical--and sexy!--solution presents itself...

But yeah, that's pretty much the only rational reason for this rule that I can see.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2008


The best way to avoid a rule established by the leaders of the community, and agreed to by YOU (when you agreed to live in the dorm), might be to move off campus?

I put this right in there with folks who move into a community with a covenant and then want to break all the rules... don't move in, move out, or go through a legitimate process to change it..

now, get off my lawn and out of my daughter's dorm room!
posted by HuronBob at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being 35, old and mellowed, and far past the age I lived in a dorm, I can now see why such rules might be kind of nice. For the same reason others have said: so I can get some sleep in peace. (And so my roommate can, too.)

At my college dorms were co-ed, and there was no signing in or signing out of any kind. It was a free-for-all.

But I remember what it was like to be there at that time, and yes, that would have irked me. You might want to poll a whole mess of other comparable colleges and find out what their rules are. Nicely present a whole bunch of data to the new president. Suggest that the rules hamper regular activities, such as watching movies with friends, studying late in your rooms, etc. At least push for lesser restrictions on the weekends. I can't think of anything magical you can do to get the rules changed, though. This kind of thing often changes only after years of debate and ridicule from others.
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:27 PM on February 19, 2008


I have heard of these rules, but only in religious universities.

Probably in place to keep the unmarrieds from doin' it. Is Clarksville conservative? If so, that would be why it is still in place.
posted by schroedinger at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2008


Just a thought that pointing out that same sex couples can slip by this rule will probably just get the rule widened. Maybe try a petition.
posted by d4nj450n at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2008


and anyways, who says people only have sex between the hours of midnight and 8 am? the best part about college was you got to have sex anytime you wanted!
posted by kidsleepy at 12:39 PM on February 19, 2008


I want to a large public uni and these rules varied from dorm to dorm. The "freshman" dorms were the strictest, while the upper-classman dorms were the most lax.

To add on to what others said, I think part of it for a parent's ease of mind. A university can say, "Look, we're trying to do something about sex! Look at our dorm rules!"
posted by jmd82 at 12:48 PM on February 19, 2008


Just a thought that pointing out that same sex couples can slip by this rule will probably just get the rule widened. Maybe try a petition.

That's a good point.

Also consider this: what if you and your roommate were to sign some kind of statement permitting you to have overnight guests? Maybe check on that with an RA and see if they can inquire up the chain.

I can't help but think that whoever is in charge will just deny that kind of thing, though. They have no obligation to actually "help" you, and the fact that they have that visitation rule in place makes it pretty clear that they just care about covering their own asses.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:48 PM on February 19, 2008


I would imagine that the school's responsibilities in loco parentis have a great deal to do with the reasons for such rules and likewise their enforceability.

I'm far from an expert on this, but at one point in history this kind of responsibility was widely disappearing, but then some parents' sued colleges when their kids did "bad" things and at the same time some colleges promoted this kind of thing as a way of attracting students whose parents were involved in the decisionmaking.

Anyone else have more information on this angle?
posted by mikel at 12:51 PM on February 19, 2008


Given that they're not really prohibiting sexy-sexy time (you can have someone over until midnight, after all; it's not like some religious schools where they're trying to prohibit all opposite-sex visitation), I'd wager that their intention behind the rule is to keep people from "sexiling" their roommates.

I think it's less "enforced morality" than it is "enforced politeness." It's kind of a dick move to take over a shared room and make your roommate sleep in the lounge, but it's not exactly uncommon, and I suspect that the more socially conservative of an area/school you're in, the less comfortable a third-wheel roommate might be about sharing a room with a couple.

The route taken by my alma mater to mitigate the same problem was to have a question on the roommate-matching questionnaire distributed to incoming freshman that basically asked (along with "smoking / non-smoking" and other things of that nature), 'do you have a problem with opposite-sex visitors spending the night?' They tried not to pair people who answered that question differently together, and like smoking/non-smoking, if a roommate had a problem with it, their wishes took precedence. It worked reasonably well, in my opinion.

If you can pin down the reasons why the rule exists (by talking to the Residence Life coordinator or the Dean of Students), you might have a better idea of how it change it. If it's really designed, as I suspect, to prevent awkwardness with overnight romantic guests (rather than to discourage sexuality in general), there are a lot of ways it might be made more flexible. E.g., have an exemption for students who are in single rooms and thus don't have a roommate, or whose roommates aren't around at the time. Having the rule only apply to underclassmen or freshmen is another route that I think some schools take -- the assumption being by the time you're a sophomore or upperclassman, you should have figured out who you want to live with and factored things like their romantic habits into that decision on your own.

I can imagine though, that you might take some heat from other students (quietly, since generally nobody wants to appear to be a prude) if you start to campaign to change this without some sort of replacement rule to keep people from being made uncomfortable by their roommates' overnight guests.

Of course, I could be totally wrong about this -- the rule might exist as some nod to "good old-fashioned morality" perhaps in the form of some wealthy donors. (At my college there were two single-sex dorms left on campus as a result of a very rich donor who insisted on their existence as a condition for large gifts -- that nobody wanted to live in them, particularly the mens' dorm, didn't matter.) Before you start campaigning, make sure that this isn't the case. If there's no rational reason for the rule, rational argument won't work.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:59 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you have an interest in the history of the why, the term you're looking for is "in loco parentis." Also Beth Bailey's book Sex in the Heartland (Harvard U. Press: 2002) covers this topic to some degree. In loco parentis, still widely in effect today, became common when coeducation did. It's present in colleges of all shapes and sizes. It's an interesting topic, but that's speaking as a historian (of prostitution but I digress). I think it might be hard to fight "the man" on this one. If I were you-- and I was once-- I'd get a group of friends, rent a cheap motel room, and have at-- whatever you wish.
posted by vincele at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2008


First and foremost, why? Is there a legal reason for this I don't know about? I am friends with many RAs on other campuses, and apparently this policy is fairly rare, particularly for a whole campus. I'm also friends with many RAs here, and they absolutely loathe it. I understand the need for visitation hours in an enclosed dorm, but for every main-campus living quarter? Really?

It's to "prevent" you from having sex. Yes, really. Times have changed pretty fast in terms of what is considered appropriate unsupervised mixing between genders, and conventions on campuses have not caught up. And since colleges/universities are largely still considered to act in loco parentis, you get silly rules like curfews and visitation hours.
posted by desuetude at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2008


We had this at Notre Dame. The rules/hours were called "parietals." It applied to every dorm, every single day. Oh, and we didn't have any co-ed dorms. They were all single-gender.

It was to keep you from having sex. Really. Sex outside marriage is explicitly forbidden in the Notre Dame Student Handbook. If they catch you doing it - even if you're not breaking parietals at the time - you get in super big trouble.

Funny you should mention the gay thing. Yeah, that was one way around it. Two of my good friends in the dorm were a lesbian couple that roommed together. Of course, given the University's stance against homosexuality - refusing to acknowledge any gay or lesbian student groups, for instance, because then they'd be able to apply for office space in the student union and invite speakers - I wasn't inclined to complain about their lone perk.

There were people trying to get parietals lifted every single year I was there. Letters to the editor, petitions, everything. Didn't make a bit of difference. The one good argument they had was that the living arrangements on campus made for very, very limited opportunities to get to know people of the opposite sex. Campus was very secluded and there was only one bar within convenient walking distance. (And given that it was on campus, they checked IDs pretty rigorously.) So other than class, often the only time you'd interact socially was at some nasty cramped dorm room or off-campus party, when people would binge drink and hook up in the corners. I've got some great guy friends from college, but they're all from the last two years when I was more able to get away from the restrictions of campus life.
posted by web-goddess at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2008


My dad went to a big state university, and in his time (late 60s) the rule for opposite sex visitors was that the door had to be open enough to fit one shoe inside, and both boy and girl had to have at least one foot on the floor at all times.

The simple answer as to 'why' is that some entity influential at your school doesn't like unmarried people having sex. Whether you can get that changed depends on how influential that entity is.
posted by happyturtle at 1:21 PM on February 19, 2008


At my university the rule was you could only have an opposite sex person in your room if they had at least one foot on the floor.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2008


I don't see how "parentis" is involved at all, since with rare exception, everyone in college is an adult.
posted by bryanjbusch at 1:28 PM on February 19, 2008


I went to a large state university, and we had the same rule (this was over 20 years ago, mind you). Nobody paid it much mind—I don't recall anyone really making a fuss over how their rights were being infringed. I do recall my RA dropping by my dorm room with his girlfriend after-hours. My guess is that this was one of those vestigial rules that would be more trouble to get off the books than to simply ignore, at least in the case of my school. So "ignore it" might work for you.

None of the men's dorms at my school had a central entrance point, so people could come and go without coming under the gaze of someone at the front desk. All the women's dorms did have a central entrance, so there was no avoiding it. The one co-ed dorm is simply too sprawling to keep track of. Off-campus dorms did not have any kind of uniform visitation rules that I'm aware of.

Now, my mother, when she was in college, lived in an off-campus dorm that had a house mother. All the girls who lived there had to be verifiably present every night by a relatively early hour, and if they weren't, they were actually forced to stay in the house for a weekend or something. Kind of amazing, considering they had all reached the age of majority, but it was, as they say, "a different time."
posted by adamrice at 1:31 PM on February 19, 2008


Why? Antiquated Puritan bullshit.

Solution? If you want to live somewhere where you'll be treated like a grown-up, move off-campus. Life is too short to have some prissy little hall monitor telling you what you can and can't do in a space you (or your folks) pay to rent.

Side-note: does anyone have a cite on "one foot on the floor" being an actual rule at any school? Always sounded like an urban legend to me. And, if it is a real rule, do campus officials see couples having sex up against the wall or with one bent over the dresser and say, "very good. carry on?"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:31 PM on February 19, 2008


I don't see how "parentis" is involved at all, since with rare exception, everyone in college is an adult.

I have wondered this also. I think the answer is that these kind of things are unconstitutional, but parents tend to be happy with the arrangement, and most college kids can't afford fancy lawyers on their own, so it hasn't gotten a serious test in court yet.

Most college kids are so afraid of authority that they give in to all kinds of illegal policies. When the RAs would come sniffing around my place and ask if they could come in, I would just say "no." When they would ask "why," I would say "the 4th amendment."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2008


and yes, the fact that at most schools a gay couple can room together while a straight couple cannot is a hilarious unintentional side effect of these antiquated rules.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:38 PM on February 19, 2008



I don't see how "parentis" is involved at all, since with rare exception, everyone in college is an adult.

I think it has more to do with who's paying the bills (and thus who chooses the school the student attends) than anything.
posted by messylissa at 2:03 PM on February 19, 2008


I don't see how "parentis" is involved at all, since with rare exception, everyone in college is an adult.

Full rights of legal adulthood are not actually conferred upon you at 18. It's illegal to purchase alcohol until 21, for example.

It's assumed that parents are usually paying for college, and claiming their college-age kids as dependents. Post-secondary students are often lumped into the special restricted-civil-liberties category of "students."

Campuses are not generally public property (they could be private property, "educational property," etc., depending on the state.) College students who live off-campus in regular apartments enjoy a little bit more freedom when not on campus, but those living in any campus-sponsored housing waive a whole bunch of privacy rights, as well as tenants' rights. On the other hand, campus security often handles disciplinary action for certain illegal activities without involving the police.

Side-note: does anyone have a cite on "one foot on the floor" being an actual rule at any school? Always sounded like an urban legend to me. And, if it is a real rule, do campus officials see couples having sex up against the wall or with one bent over the dresser and say, "very good. carry on?"

I think it was in truth used more of a guideline, rather than a Rule Of The College. As a written rule, I think you're right that it's an urban legend. Considering the antiquated laws on appropriate sexual intercourse in Virginia, where I went to college, we just enjoyed adding it to the long list of simultaneously-broken rules in any given tryst.
posted by desuetude at 2:15 PM on February 19, 2008


I think the rules are not only intended to prevent consentual sex.
I went to a Catholic university, and these rules were never actually enforced. Ever visitor had to sign in at the front desk, but there were ways around this. Most of the people at the security desk (myself included, I worked there for 3 years.) Would just nod and smile as you and your boyfriend went upstairs. I think the rules are there to say "see, Mr. and Mrs. Paying the Tuition, your daughter won't get raped on our watch!" and if something does happen, they'll have something to say "see it was so-and-so's fault for not enforcing our rules! it's not the university!"
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2008


At Hope College--conservative Christian school in Holland, MI--it was midnight until ELEVEN am. (2am--11 on the weekends.) Started out way back when as a sex thing, of course, still existed as an enforced politeness thing, mostly. I never saw it actively enforced; if a roommate bitched or you were making a crapload of noise, you got caught; but even then, the trick was to be friendly to your RA and not be a habitual offender. They weren't interested in writing you up if they didn't have to.

One workaround was to just make sure your opposite-sex guests stayed until after 11 am the next day. Also, it's not like the RAs were roaming the halls like prison guards; if you did a quick look-see you could sneak someone back to the stairwell if they were around an hour to late.

Since the dorms there had communal showers, one cited benefit (particularly cited by my female friends) was not having to get harassed on the way to the shower in the morning.
posted by stevis23 at 2:29 PM on February 19, 2008


Like others have said, "enforced politeness".

(FTR, at my school, which was technically a Methodist school, but not really, we didn't have specific hours, but it was done by days. As in, you could only have any guest (same or opposite sex over the age of 18) as an overnight visitor in your room for no more than 3 days within any 7 day period. See if you can lobby for something like that.)
posted by sperose at 2:47 PM on February 19, 2008


I went to college and was an RA in South Dakota, where people are fairly conservative about these things (still). The staff was all painfully aware of how annoying and trivial this rule was, and on occasion I did write people up for it, but only if they were being really loud and I usually escorted them off the floor first with a warning. (Sometimes they would go right back up...at which point I wrote them up) Although our rules were a little more lenient (until 10a.m. - 2a.m., 3a.m. Friday/Sat nights?), it was still annoying to write people up for this.

The main reasons we had in my building were security and community bathrooms. Because our dorm was older than dirt, we had to lock down the individual "houses" after hours. This prevented your opposite-sex friends from going over to the other side to use the bathroom, or shower in the morning if they spent the night. This has been alleviated in newer buildings on my campus which have suite-style rooms and semi-private bathrooms.

The other reason would obviously be roommate privacy. With a rule that states no opposite-sex after X time, you clearly have grounds to complain when your slutty roommate is having noisy sex approximately 8 feet from your virgin ears every night. Although "no overnight stays" would also seem to cover this, having a time that visitation ends ensures that no one is sexiled from their room involuntarily every night.

How to beat it? My advice would be to talk to your RA about it and see how they feel about the issue, make them aware that you are having friends over and your movie may go past 12a.m., etc. If your RA doesn't care, then don't worry about it!
posted by sararah at 3:09 PM on February 19, 2008


25 years ago at the state institution I attended this was the rule as well. Also, guests had to leave either their drivers license or student ID card at the front desk and declare what room they were going to ... and they had to be escorted by the person they were visiting to and from the room. The reason we were given for this was very valid: they needed to know who was in the dorm. Jane Doe may think her boyfriend is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he might be a thief (or worse). We actually had an incident with someone's overnight guest stealing things from other rooms that he knew no one was in. Also, at night with limited staff on duty, knowing how many people are in the dorm in the event of a fire or other emergency could be important in getting everyone out and to safety. They also locked the doors at midnight, which meant having to buzz and wait for an RA to come open the door for you. Our lobbies were only 24 hour hangouts for residents.

Not that this stopped people from having overnight guests, of course. My first roommate had her boyfriend over all the time, and I tried to be cool about it, but I didn't sign up to live with a couple in a small bedroom with no partitions, so I finally had to complain. It was also a little bothersome to go to the bathroom at night (most dorms had bathrooms down the hall) and walk in on guys using the toilets or taking a shower or have guys walk in while you were doing the same.
posted by Orb at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2008


I went to Austin Peay 1998-2002. These rules were the exact same then as they are now. You can get some RAs that are lenient, but others who keep the every.single.rule. I got kind of lucky since I was a big homo and could keep my visitors overnight. I did have lots of straight dudes as friends and would just sneak them in my window since I was on the 1st floor. I also was without a roommate that semester. Consideration is a nice thing. If you are living in the dorms where you have separate rooms but share a shared living space, my experience was that if you weren't an ASS to your roommates, talked to your roommates before, weren't stupid about bringing them after curfew when people were hanging out on the porches partying, and snuck them out extra early or after curfew then you would be ok.

Parents like to think that their young girls will not be corrupted impregnated while at college.

Let's Go Peay!! Show me your Peayness!!
posted by likesuchasand at 4:14 PM on February 19, 2008


Due respect to mikel, vincele, and desuetude, but I'm not sure in loco parentis is exactly at issue here. A whole series of circuit and supreme court cases in the '60s and '70s more or less obliterated the rights of university administrators to act in place of parents, especially at public schools -- and ended the era of Animal House-style double secret probation rules from which this visitor policy seems to be a holdover.

Since then, most universities have been able to get away with some of their old tricks by presenting them as concerns over liability and the health and safety of students, rather than an unmitigated right to make decisions in their interest. Despite the fact that most over-18 students are considered adults, when the drinking age was raised in 1984, colleges could start tying alcohol offenses to federal financial aid (and since alcohol and debt are inseperable components of American undergraduate education, it gave them de facto control over swaths of student life).

These days, most of these rules -- things like residence hall room agreements and university conduct codes -- are established as contracts, as HuronBob and desuetude suggest, and following them is a condition of enrollment in college or living on university property. At least, that's the way it's presented at my (large, Western, public) university: one proviso of living in a dorm is signing away some minor rights and putting up with occasionally annoying rules, the same way one might forfeit the right to piss on the carpet when renting an apartment.

Changing the policy is no doubt contingent on your campus culture -- there'd be rioting in the streets if such a rule was imposed at my school, but different colleges certainly have different attitudes. If the All State is widely read and well-respected, I'd start agitating with a letter to the editor, or by proposing an opinion piece or in-depth article. That will draw attention to the dumb rule, help you gauge student opinion, and maybe help solve the problem for others. Then, if all else fails, try and solve it for yourself -- a good relationship with the right RA can go a long way towards keeping stupid rules from being enforced. Good luck.
posted by ecmendenhall at 4:17 PM on February 19, 2008


Wow. My school abandoned that policy decades before I arrived - I had no idea there were so many campuses that still actively policed this stuff (however leniently)!
posted by bettafish at 4:38 PM on February 19, 2008


Due respect to mikel, vincele, and desuetude, but I'm not sure in loco parentis is exactly at issue here. A whole series of circuit and supreme court cases in the '60s and '70s more or less obliterated the rights of university administrators to act in place of parents, especially at public schools -- and ended the era of Animal House-style double secret probation rules from which this visitor policy seems to be a holdover.

Oh, in loco parentis was dealt a major blow. But by the ninties, anyway, it was back. An editorial discussing (and basically defending) "morality" policies. Here's a journal article to which I don't have access exploring the idea that in loco parentis has morphed into "in consortio cum parentibus." Of course, the concept has been used in both directions -- there was a series of incidents in the 90s and early 00s where colleges had not informed parents of their kid's drug/alcohol/behavior infractions until the situation escalated. I knew personally of a case where the college defended this as an extension of parentis. (My friend's folks found out about her suicide attempt eventually because of the follow-up health care. She was still on their insurance, after all. Boggle!)

Admittedly, I was using the term more liberally than literally. (This is what happens when IANAL, but I sure like Latin.) I also think a number of other ingredients help keep these rules in place, including conservatism of board of directors members and funders; legitimate security issues; security theater; the aforementioned enforced politeness; and the handy way to reprimand "trouble" residents. But it's certainly an option that colleges keep in their back pocket.

My college (small, quite conservative school, from which I graduated 13(!) years ago) enforced the policy very leniently unless you were already being a nuisance.

It was also a little bothersome to go to the bathroom at night (most dorms had bathrooms down the hall) and walk in on guys using the toilets or taking a shower or have guys walk in while you were doing the same.

Rude! Our guys dorms were downstairs from the girls dorms -- it was accepted practice to instead use the other floor's bathrooms.
posted by desuetude at 5:01 PM on February 19, 2008


First and foremost, why? Is there a legal reason for this I don't know about?
I believe this is a Tennessee Board of Regents rule. TBR is the governing body for all state universities and colleges in Tennessee. This rule is at Memphis, MTSU and UTK, it's crap but it's there. So petitioning your president may not have an immediate or direct response.
In theory, you could coordinate an attack with other Student Government Associations at other TBR schools to bring the issue to the board. I believe they only meet once a quarter, but that'll give you time.

As to how to get around it, I went to MTSU in the 90s and we just crawled through windows and snuck around. I found it made some relationships more interesting than they actually were. Of course, I only lived in the dorms for a year and then I had to run to an apartment.

How's that insane non-smoking campus thing going?
posted by teleri025 at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2008


I've never understood colleges treating students poorly because, am I mistaken, or don't they become alums, the ones they always pitch to for contributions?

I know after I graduated my college pitched me for contributions and I took the opportunity to list the times I thought they had treated me poorly. I suggested they might want to think twice with their current student population. Those who can, do...those who can't, teach...those who can't teach become school administrators.
posted by forthright at 7:13 PM on February 19, 2008


My school had this, albeit at a much later time (I think 2 AM?) ... it wasn't enforced very much, though. (I knew exactly one guy who really cared about it, he was a bit rules-obsessed, and he made exceptions if it wasn't his room and there was Star Trek involved).
posted by dagnyscott at 8:04 PM on February 19, 2008


You need to go to an english university, no rules man. Infact I distinctly remember an orgy at one point...
posted by Neonshock at 2:54 AM on February 20, 2008


Okay, NOW I remember (one of the many reasons) why I moved into an off-campus rental house my sophomore year of college.

I vaguely remember a rule about visitors, but the one time my out-of-state BF visited my college town when I was a freshman, he stayed at a motel and I (unbeknownst to mom!) stayed with him there over the weekend. Otherwise, our room of 4 girls was entirely chaste, so the particulars of the rule escape memory.

If you just want to get away from the rule, then moving off-campus is likely the best way to go. If you can get together a group of like-minded friends, even better. In my college town, there were lots of small houses for rent, so everyone could even have their own room. Best of both worlds & all that. In my case, I also saved a bunch of money that way, but that was a private college, so YMMV.

If you want to make the rule go away, I think you've gotten lots of good suggestions above. If you choose to use the school paper or student government, you particularly want to be clear about how you'd change the rule in ways that accommodate those who benefit from it now: people whose roommates would boink noisily all night.

If there are other existing ways to complain about obnoxious or inappropriate roommate behavior, all the better. (One of the girls in my freshman room switched to our room because her prior roommate came in drunk & puking in the middle of the night way too often.) Be sure to emphasize that those rules still exist.
posted by epersonae at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2008


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