In the wake of public confusion over Fire Safety policies, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), the Office of Residential Life, and Physical Plant have agreed on new procedures for fire safety inspections. Shortly after Spring Break, representatives from ResLife, Physical Plant, and the WSA’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC) met to discuss fire safety reform.
“We wanted to create a culture of mutual respect between students and fire safety,” said Becky Weiss ’10, the Chair of SAC.
The negotiations resulted in two major alterations to inspection policies: the steps that inspectors must take before entering a room were formalized, and plans were made to institute a Fire Safety Month. According to the WSA’s end-of-the-year report, all fire safety inspections will now take place during one month during each semester. According to Weiss, it is not yet clear whether there will be a single month for the entire campus, or whether different residences will have different Fire Safety Months. If inspectors find violations, however, they will return to that residence unannounced.
“It’s a good compromise,” said Fran Koerting, Director of ResLife. “This will be a more proactive approach, so [inspection] wasn’t hanging over students’ heads.”
ResLife and the WSA hope that Fire Safety inspections will cease to be a source of anxiety and will fulfill a more educational purpose. While the actual educational programs have yet to be planned, Weiss hopes to hold a competition between residences for the fewest violations.
“We want to let people know when they’re actually putting others in danger,” Weiss said.
The report also announced a new knocking policy—Fire Safety inspectors must knock and announce that they are conducting an inspection, wait thirty seconds before knocking again, and then announce their purpose once more before entering a room.
According to Koerting, the new guidelines for entering rooms are actually a public documentation and clarification of existing procedures. The WSA had heard from many students who believed that inspectors could not enter their room if they were not invited in. This policy is meant to avoid such confusion.
“We don’t want to catch someone unprepared,” said Koerting.
Many students have complained that Fire Safety’s inspections are overly intrusive. Even with these reforms, Weiss is only partially satisfied.
“This gives students a little bit of privacy, just not quite as much a I’d like personally,” she said. “At least now people will know what will happen.”