Privacy concerns over halls checks

A new safety check policy introduced at University of Otago halls of residence has sparked concerns about privacy.

According to a notice sent to students of Abbey College this week from its warden, Chris Addington, all residential colleges have been directed to institute a safety check system "as part of our normal routines and procedures".

"As well as the weekly clean of bedrooms there will be a second time during the week when a member of the cleaning team will knock, open your door and ensure all is OK," he wrote.

It follows the death of a University of Canterbury student in Christchurch, whose body went undiscovered in his residential college room for nearly four weeks.

An Abbey College student contacted the Otago Daily Times with concerns over the new policy.

The student, who asked not to be named, said students would not be told when the checks would occur.

"Students are upset about the prospect of being seen naked, having sex, etc, and feel the new measure constitutes an invasion of privacy."

He had talked to several students who were "extremely distressed by the policy", he said.

Incoming Otago University Students' Association president and colleges officer Jack Manning said while safety was "vitally important", the University needed to be cognisant of student privacy and respecting personal space.

"We would be concerned if these safety checks lead to any sort of disciplinary action or consequences based on what is found - as this no longer becomes about students safety but instead enforcing college rules.

"If they are truly intended for safety then the colleges should both give notice and make it clear that these randomised checks will not lead to disciplinary action."

A University of Otago spokeswoman refused to confirm if the direction to introduce the checks came from the University, and if so, when the direction was given or why.

In a statement she said it was proud of the pastoral care provided to students, and the University has a high ratio of professional staff, and student staff, to residents.

"All the cleaning staff, catering staff, administrative staff, evening security, and property staff also form part of our support network around student wellbeing and pastoral care and there is continual contact between staff and students.

"Any students with concerns about the level of monitoring and supervision provided are encouraged to discuss these concerns with the college head."

Mr Addington referred questions to the University.

Comments

Do they mean cleaners have keys to rooms?

Knock and wait. Not knock and enter.

This is not even a new thing. Last year I was walking in my room completely naked after shower and this guy knocked and before I can even say who’s this he opened the door and entered my room and didn’t even ask if I was ok with him entering to check out electronic devices in the room. It was horrifying and what was the answer from management? We emailed you about his arrival! What if I prefer not everyone who has a minor authority in the college can enter my room for any possible reasons they want? I had people checking my room in extremely inconvenient other situations also and it’s a mutual experience for many others.

The answer from management is always useless and they never really want to change anything about it.
On top of that all the students who are supposed to serve as Senior College Assistants have keys to everyone’s rooms and I don’t feel very safe when they always push their personal agendas in every formal situations. The university needs to rethink their approach if they want to offer any sense of safety to students. If they have concerns about students health they can call, knock on the doors and if they HAVE TO, open the door and enter without my permission.

And to answer your question, yes cleaners crew who change in regular basic and we have seen a variety of colorful characters among them in years have keys. And many others also have keys to students rooms and I can not see any possible reasons for so many people having access to the place that is supposed to be Private.