About two weeks ago, I walked into my dorm room to find three guys walking around the room. Although I was not close friends with any of them, they were all acquaintances, and I knew what was happening. It was one of the random safety checks that happen throughout the school year.I knew that I had nothing to hide, so I wasn’t really worried. But by the time it was over, I had emptied a bag full of quarters on my desk, as well as demonstrated that a decorative pipe on a shelf had indeed not been used. As I thought, I didn’t have anything to hide, but I was sweating for a minute.
Here’s the thing: I shouldn’t have had a reason to sweat. I knew I hadn’t been hot-boxin’ it in my room, but until I assured him twice that the pipe hadn’t been used, he was convinced I’d been lighting it up. If I were in fact using that pipe, wouldn’t it make a little more sense to at least put it in a drawer instead of leaving it out in the open?
The bag full of quarters was also harmless, but since it had the name of a type of alcohol on it, it was dubbed suspicious, thus, subject to further inspection. Like I said, I knew I had absolutely nothing to hide. If I did, it would have been in the drawer with my needles, crack and a bottle of moonshine.
My roommate, on the other hand, as well as two of my neighbors, did have something to hide. They received violations for fire hazards, for having a “power strip plugged into a power strip.” They had their power strips confiscated, and as of now, none has been returned.
When asked about the violations, all three guilty parties responded by saying they had no idea it was against the rules to have two power strips connected. All three went on to say they felt the violations were “stupid.” They might have a point – I mean, are fires caused by this really that prevalent?
A resident of another dorm told me he had the same setup in his room, but he was not written up for it. It is unfair that residents of some halls are found in violation of safety regulations, but residents of other halls are not found in violation, even when they are. If safety checks are going to be truly “safe,” this sort of discrepancy needs to be dealt with.
Another discrepancy, according to one guilty individual, is the fact that the violation was not cited during the first safety check, but was cited during the recent one. If it wasn’t dangerous first semester, how can it be considered dangerous this semester? Does the burn ban extend all the way into the halls of the dorms?
I understand that the most likely explanation is that the problem was overlooked the first time, but that raises another issue: What if it was actually a serious danger? Say, a pipe bomb?
Fine, I’m exaggerating – but here’s the point: Sure, two power strips connected to each other might be a fire hazard, but is it something that should automatically be confiscated? And when three people on the same floor (in the same quad, no less) receive a violation for it, maybe it would go a long way for there to be a list of these exact violations, so students would know ahead of time they were breaking the rules.
Dan Plate is a freshman business major from Ogallala, Neb. His column appears every Friday.