By JOHN WIGGINTON
Elizabeth Emmel, a senior resident of Randolph Hall, has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor ever since resident assistants told her that her self-constructed loft had to go.
Customized lofts are not the only thing forbidden at Mary Washington; they also prohibit cut trees, lava lamps, and indoor grills.
“It really sucks sleeping on the floor,” said Emmel.
Students have often been critical of the dorm life at Mary Washington, which according to students can be oppressive, and one reason many students decide to live off-campus.
“I’m not blaming the RAs, but the student handbook is too vague,” Emmel said. The handbook states that students who want a loft may purchase a pre-fabricated kit as long as the loft complies with
“Loft Guideline” requirements. However, like most students, Emmel wanted to save some money, and decided to not buy a $200 prefabricated loft, which a vendor sells on-campus at the start of every school year.
“The only difference was the price I paid and that I cut the wood myself,” Emmel said, who calculated that she probably spent $130 on her self-made loft, which she said was stable, free-standing, and followed all fire code rules.
Students complain about other UMW dorm rules as well.
Diana Gallup, a senior living off-campus, is still annoyed about an incident that occurred when she was a freshman. She and six friends were in her dorm room watching a movie—which was apparently one person over the limit.
“Our RA stood outside our room until one of my friends got up and left,” she said.
Mary Washington has many of the same rules as other Virginia schools, such as James Madison University and the University of Virginia: no burning incense, no smoking, and no pets, except fish.
But school officials say Mary Washington has established additional rules for students in the dorms.
“What other schools do does not factor into the final decision of what rules are put into effect here at UMW, and which ones are not,” said Residence Life Director Christine Porter.
Both JMU and UVA allow students to build their own lofts, for example, but Mary Washington officials don’t like the idea, and say there are legal concerns behind the ban.
“Students [at Mary Washington] are not allowed to build their own lofts because it puts the liability directly on the university and not the manufacturer,” Porter said.
Porter added that school officials will consider special cases, and have allowed some students in the past to keep their self-made lofts. However, students should not get their hopes up. Porter said in most cases the school continues to invoke the rule forbidding them in the student handbook.
“It would be too hard to inspect every loft on campus,” she said.
Among other differences between UMW and other schools: UVA lets dorm students have popcorn poppers; JMU lets them use hot pots.
Mary Washington, though, doesn’t allow any cooking at all in dorm rooms.
Former R.A. Lura Moomau said she is frustrated by the policy.
“When there’s no kitchen of any sort, like in Russell Hall, it’s really inconvenient not being allowed to have hot plates,” she said.
An article in the Bullet last year reported that the number of alcohol violations at UMW was almost identical to Virginia Tech, a school of nearly 30,000 students.
Mary Washington also stands alone with its recently publicized rule outlawing not only beer pong tables, but “water pong” tables as well. The Bullet recently reported that several dorm students were documented for having a water pong table in their room earlier this semester. School officials said it constituted a fire hazard.
Another frustration of some students is a UMW rule that forbids hanging tapestries in dorm rooms.
“The fact that you can hang a poster but not a tapestry is a little ridiculous to me,” Moomay said. “I mean a poster is just as flammable as a tapestry.”
School officials say that and many other rules were written in hopes of preventing fires and with the intent to keep students safe. However, with regular fire drills and little history of dormitory fires at UMW, students are on edge.
Porter was sympathetic towards students, but defended the university.
“The policies were developed for the greater good, but yes I understand the student’s perspective on these rule,” she said. “In my 22 years working in Residence Life, UMW is my 5th campus…I do not feel that UMW is more restrictive than other universities.”
Many UMW students disagree, citing other areas schools that they say are less restrictive than UMW.
“If you crack down on everything, that’s a little unreasonable in my mind,” Emmel said, who not only had to get rid of her loft, but was also ordered to dispose of a lamp that her R.A. said was prohibited.
Emmel said she got rid of it, but is still mystified about why exactly the lamp was prohibited.