My flatmate and I decided to get something from the vending machine in the science building tonight as we walked back to our apartment from a friend’s dorm. He keyed into the building and we made our way down the hall.
Then we ran into two people from maintenance. They told us that the building closes at six, and unless we had a pass from our research advisors, we weren’t supposed to be in the building. Besides, they were waxing the floors.
None of this was a problem, so we left.
We didn’t need to go to the vending machine tonight. But there have been times where I’ve needed to get into the building for research–to check on a detector, to pick up my bag after a research student gathering off-campus, to take our plastic out of the sodium hydroxide and set it out to dry. There are also days when I stay late at work, not leaving until seven or eight o’clock. During this time, I might, say, venture outside the lab to go to the bathroom, the vending machines, or even outside (it’s extremely cold in the science building).
In addition, the building doors lock automatically at six, requiring a properly coded ID card to get in from about six at night to seven-thirty in the morning. As a research student, I have such an ID. This means that I am authorized to be in the science building after it closes.
I don’t have an issue with being told not to walk somewhere because maintenance is waxing the floors. I do have an issue with the enforcement of a policy that does not exist.
I’ve come across this issue more than once this summer. I’ve been told multiple times that UP will come around and kick me out if I stay in the hallways or classrooms, that I really need a pass to walk around the science building at night because it’s policy, that UP will kick me out if I don’t have one.
And during the school year, there is such a policy. Due to drunk kids with card access to the building being loud and destructive on the weekends, each department now issues passes to students who request them. They do this rather than stripping all weekend card access, which hurts students who work in the building. If you’re in the building after a certain time and don’t have a pass, you can be kicked out by maintenance or UP. That’s policy.
But that policy only applies during the school year. In the summer, UP doesn’t come around nearly as often. Passes aren’t given out because the departments aren’t made aware that they need them. That’s mostly because the passes aren’t necessary over the summer, when there are far fewer students here and most of the ones that do stay live off-campus. That means fewer drunk kids taking a shortcut to their dorm on the weekends. Also, with more research students, you have the potential for more people coming into the building late for research. So rather than implementing the pass policy, UP relies on the responsibility of the students with card access.
The problem now rises out of the fact that they don’t let maintenance know about the summer change in policy. This means that if I don’t have a pass, I can get kicked out of the building, even if I am there for research.
My flatmate said that in this scenario, it’s better to have a gap between policy and enforcement. I disagree. If I get kicked out of a building for the enforcement of a policy which doesn’t apply in the summer, my data could be messed up. I might not be able to get into my apartment, because my keys are in my bag and my bag is in the lab and I’ve just been kicked out and locked out of the building. And those are just the concerns of the research student. I’ve also got class, and that becomes an issue of being able to access my notes and homework.
In the “real world,” gaps between policy and enforcement can be dangerous. It can lead to false arrest and misrepresentation of information. I argue that a gap between policy and enforcement is equally dangerous to students. If it’s policy to have a 24-hour computer lab open, but the doors to the building are locked every night, that interferes with a student’s right to use the 24-hour computer lab. If it’s summer policy to stop the pass system, but a student can still be kicked out of the building without a pass, that interferes with a student’s right to be in the building. Especially when the student in question has 24-hour card access, which indicates that they have gotten some sort of permission to be in the building in the first place.
I’m not saying that the student can be unreasonable. Maintenance has the right to kick someone out of the hall they’re waxing or the classroom they’re cleaning. But if a student has a right to be in the building, and they are not interfering with maintenance and not creating a disturbance, they shouldn’t be punished according to a policy that’s been replaced with a more liberal one.
If students aren’t supposed to be in the building after six, then make a public announcement and strip all night card access or re-implement the pass system. If students with card access are allowed to be in the building, for whatever reason, then tell everybody involved. But don’t just not tell a huge part of the faculty that you’re implementing a new policy. That only causes confusion, and students are punished for doing something they’re allowed to do.