Do you have the right to say no when ResEd or Public Safety comes knocking on your door?

It’s been a long week and you’ve been looking forward to Thursday night so badly. You’re having a karaoke night in your dorm with a couple of friends. It’s going well and you feel yourself relaxing, when someone knocks on the door. “RA on duty, can I come in?” asks a Residential Assistant. Some of your friends panic and you’re not sure what to do. Should you open the door or pretend that nothing’s going on?

What do you do when Residential Education staff or Public Safety ask to come into your dorm? What are your rights when it comes to room searches?

The Gazelle talked to members of the Offices of Residential Education, Public Safety and Student Government to find out about the policies and their implementation so that you can decide what to do if someone comes knocking on your door.

When it comes to room searches, Res Ed and Public Safety will reportedly only request for you to open the door if there is a report or a concern that someone has raised.

We’re responders, we’re not waiting for something to happen,” said Audrey Kajumbula, Director of Res Ed.

The reason as to why we would have to go into a room is for the health and safety of the students or what could happen in that space,” she continued.

Your safety is the priority,” added Norca Vincent, Public Safety Security Manager.

Health and safety are the primary concerns for Res Ed and Public Safety to request a room search.

In conversation with The Gazelle, Residential Assistant Sahan Tampoe said that RA’s often respond to noise complaints. Tampoe presented a hypothetical scenario of what could happen after an RA knocks on your door and how the room search would then proceeds.

If I visibly see things getting out of hand [when you open the door], [if] my observations tell me that [someone is incapacitated] on the floor [or if] some people are behaving irresponsibly… [that] might lead to a health hazard,then I have the obligation to enter the room,” said Tampoe.

If it is a serious health concern, calling for an ambulance will be the first priority. Afterwards, Public Safety and Res Ed will be informed.

If contraband within residential buildings is discovered, then the RA’s duty is to ensure no one leaves the room that is being searched.

I will take all of their ID’s and I will write their N numbers or net IDs,” the RA said. “When an RA asks for your ID, you are obliged to give it … The fact that the RA is an authority of Residential Education [and] of the university means that [students] are supposed to comply.

In the circumstance that some individuals leave the room, the cameras in the buildings can be used to identify the individuals.

RAs are further required to write incident reports regarding situations that have entailed the intervention of RAs. They are trained to write incident reports in a way that reduces ambiguity and avoids making judgements — one can only say what they see.

We don’t enforce punishment, we don’t make rules, all we do is document and de-escalate,” Tampoe said, adding that some students have misconceived perceptions of an RA’s role.

Michael Todd Scollan, Senior Director of Public Safety and Emergency Operations, mentioned that the most common causes that would require Public Safety to intervene are fire alarms and medical issues.

When someone comes to the door, I really encourage students to open it because we are concerned … we don’t know what level of danger the student could be in … and we need to be able to examine what’s happening,” said Kajumbula.

Are students required to open their doors if asked by RAs? Yes. If a student decides not to comply, Public Safety and Res Ed have the right to intervene and forcibly enter the room.

We try to encourage the students to empower them through the process so they’re actively aware [of] what’s taking place, but if they choose not to, we have to bypass and be able to go in to ensure the safety of the community,” added Kajumbula.

Indeed, NYU policy states that “NYU reserves the right at any time and for any reason in its whole discretion to enter the room without prior notice to you and to make repairs, to inspect for compliance with health, fire or building codes or with NYU policies or regulations.

If a student doesn’t comply … it is a policy violation. There [are] steps that [are] listed if someone does not comply with the request of any of the administrative staff, especially if we’re going in for safety concerns,” said Kajumbula.

What if you did nothing wrong or there’s actually no violation of Res Ed and Public Safety policies happening within the dorm? You are still encouraged to open the door and comply with the staff.

If you have nothing to hide, they will apologize and say thank you for cooperating. If you refuse, it’s suspicious. If they have to forcefully go through things, that’s an escalation of the situation itself. If you get written up, the write-up will get worse because to them, you escalated the situation,” added Marie-Claude Hypko, Student Government Vice President and student representative on the Residential Education Advisory Committee.

What happens when a violation occurs? There is a behavioral misconduct chart. If you are a first time offender, then you will have to meet a staff member from the Office of Campus Life, who will conduct student hearings and write a reflection.

If you’re a repeat offender, they will have a record and then that’s when it will start to affect your opportunities on campus… study away opportunities, J-term [and] summer funding,” said Hypko.

These policies do not only apply to NYU Abu Dhabi but to NYU campuses across the GNU.

The university staff and personnel have access to their rooms so right away if someone doesn’t open the door, we can key into that space,” Kajumbula said.

The rules for this are available online on the Student Portal.

Every time students sign on to do the housing contract…, the license and expectations are there … on the Housing Portal … this information is readily available there,” added Kajumbula.

Both Res Ed and Public Safety said that they’re always open to having conversations with students about these topics.

We hope … that we’re building relationships as opposed to drawing a line in between as to how those interactions take place because really we’re concerned for the community [as a] whole, making sure that we are diligent as staff,” said Kajumbula.

Robert Titus, Associate Director of Public Safety, said that these departments are transparent.

Campus life, Res Ed, Public Safety, those departments are a student resource and support system… We have an open door policy, we’re available, you can just walk in any day of the week, normal business hours, Sunday to Thursday. We’re here. We’re accessible,” said Titus.

Originally published by ‘The Gazelle’, an NYUAD student publication on 18th November, 2017.