A freshman perspective: overnight guest rules should be modified
By KAITLYN MCCLUNG
According to page 62 of the UMW 2018/2019 student handbook, “there is no overnight visitation, except for immediate relatives, in first-year residences during the fall semester.” The policy is reviewed in the spring semester of students’ first year, and each residence hall votes on whether or not it should be kept in place. Despite these rules, students should be allowed to have overnight guests for the first semester.
The primary reason for UMW’s policy, said David Fleming, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing, is that it prevents conflict between roommates in a sensitive time where communication skills are not fully developed. “When you start entering in significant others, good friends from out of town, that sort of thing, it just makes it more difficult to have those conversations,” said Fleming.
Voting on the policy in the spring semester serves two purposes: First, students are given the time to improve communication skills with their roommates, so if a roommate has opposition to a guest, it is easier for them to bring it up. Second, it gives students access to self-governance, ensuring that the rule is a result of the community’s wishes.
Since Resident Assistants do not go door to door checking for overnight guests, the issue is usually brought to their attention if a student’s roommate complains, or the guest is impacting the community. If in violation of the policy, a student will first have a conversation with the area coordinator. If it becomes a recurring problem, the student may be sent through the conduct system.
At some other colleges in Virginia, the overnight guest policy is more lenient than UMW. At James Madison University, there is no policy that is restrictive of freshmen specifically. This is also the case at University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Randolph-Macon College.
Common policies amongst these schools require that the visitor be knowledgeable of the school’s rules, the host to stay with their guest at all times and for the host to accept responsibility of their guest’s actions. In addition to these rules, visitors are not allowed to stay two or three nights consecutively. Not included is a rule that imposes restrictions on freshmen.
To people with differing perspectives, this policy makes sense. Preventing overnight guests for freshmen in their first semester may assist them in getting adjusted to the academic workload. However, the choice to have overnight guests should be completely at the discretion of each student, given that their roommate has agreed to having a guest over beforehand. The policy undermines an important aspect of college: figuring out what works for you and what does not. Another benefit of college is getting away from your parents and having the freedom to do as you please. At UMW, the overnight guest policy for freshmen limits the freedom new students have when they come to college.
One legitimate concern that affects the policy is the safety of other students in the residence hall. To ensure the safety of other students, UMW could make use of the system other colleges in Virginia use. For example, at Randolph-Macon College, guests must be registered with campus safety. If that option is not simple enough, students could notify their RA of their guest’s presence.
A proponent for the policy may also argue that having overnight guests can strain the bond with a person’s roommate in a sensitive time. As long as a person is respectful in asking for their roommate’s consent of having a guest over, and it is acknowledged and agreed upon in the roommate agreement, this should not be an issue.
To ensure that everyone in the residence hall is comfortable with having overnight guests, students could vote on the policy in the fall semester instead of the spring. UMW already mandates that a guest not stay more than three consecutive nights, or fourteen nights per semester. This reduces the frequency in which guests are staying over and possibly disrupting a roommate and should remain. Also, instead of enforcing the policy for the entire fall semester, it should be enforced up until the roommate agreements, when each person officially agrees on the rules in their specific living spaces.
As legal adults, college students are held to the same standards of any person outside of the university in the eyes of the law. College is a time to transition into adulthood, so freshmen should be given the opportunity to make our own decisions, even when it comes to overnight guests. In doing so, we assume responsibility for our own choices and actions.