The fire safety section of the Terms of Occupancy for residents at Stony Brook University has been updated from last semester, clarifying what students can and cannot hang in their dorm rooms, as a result of a student’s misunderstanding of the policy last semester.
The newly rewritten policy reminds students that they “may not affix anything to the ceiling in their room,” and “items made of fabric are not allowed to be hung on the walls.” Door decorations have been limited to one name tag per resident and one dry erase board, while “other wall postings [inside the dorm room] must not exceed 50% of the total surface area [of the wall].”
“First and foremost, I hope people realize that we’re doing this because we care about the safety of our students,” Director of Residential Risk Management David Scarzella said. “That’s what’s most important. I don’t want to be the police of what goes on the wall. That’s not what I’m about. But I do want the students to understand that these things are in place for safety.”
According to Scarzella, paper materials are included in the term “fabric” in the policy, but as long as wall decorations are not completely covering the wall, they are allowed.
“I would think that if you walked into a room, you could see if the walls are covered, side-to-side with posters, that’s an issue,” Scarzella said.
Referring to the Resident Assistants who will be conducting the Health and Safety inspections and are responsible for enforcing the policy, Scarzella said he has “hope that everybody who is doing these inspections would be able to use some sound judgment about whether or not something is a huge issue.”
While the policy was updated to help students understand the rules and keep them safe, many are not happy about these rules.
“It’s ridiculous and doesn’t make sense,” freshman journalism major Jordan Butler said. “It seems like another way the school can get you in trouble.”
Senior electrical engineering major Zoheb Imtiaz said there “shouldn’t be a law” about what students can hang in their dorms. “I’m renting out the room as my space. I’m paying for it. They shouldn’t add more restrictions.”
Resident Assistants are also unhappy about the updated policy because of the restrictions of one door decoration per person.
“If someone really wants to cause a problem, they can start a fire if they want,” a Resident Assistant who wishes to remain anonymous because of their involvement in Campus Residences said. “One extra piece of paper isn’t going to make a difference.”
The Resident Assistant said they feel that it limits a sense of community in the dorms because students can no longer post about their clubs like they did before.
“A better way to approach the situation is to have more strict reprimands for things that actually lead to fires,” the Resident Assistant said. “Or increase programming or information about how to be safe in the dorms instead of limiting pieces of paper. Other things can be done that people will be happy with.”
Scarzella wants to remind students that “it’s not a new policy, just Stony Brook clarifying the policy.”
The fire safety section of the Terms of Occupancy is based off of the New York State Fire Code which acts as the minimum for fire regulations in New York. It is up to universities, local governments and counties to add more regulations as they see fit.
When the opportunity arose to rewrite the policy, Scarzella said other school’s fire policies were brought to the table during the rewriting, which only took a few weeks during December of last semester.
“The way other schools word it were looked at and we took probably the best from other schools and eliminated the worst and tried to come up with the best policy possible,” Scarzella said.
As far as the actual policy goes, “that’s not going to change because it’s based on what the fire code pretty much recommends,” Scarzella said.
Even though the policy was just updated, Scarzella said “it’s probably something to review in the interest of keeping everybody safe…we’re going to take a look at the policy and make sure that it’s written in the best possible way.”