On-campus residents returning next fall may notice something missing when they get to their suites – the bathroom locks.
According to Dr. Robert Redick, director of Residence Halls, the bathroom locks on all of the double-occupancy rooms in Eaton [ERC], Mahoney [MRC] and Pearson [PRC] Residential Colleges will be removed this summer in order to meet fire codes.
The change was initiated after a student in PRC accidentally locked herself in the bathroom for 13 hours at the beginning of the school year. Upon learning of the incident, officials from the Department of Residence Halls contacted the Coral Gables fire marshal, who informed them that all locks needed to be disabled.
Crista Horvath, MRC resident assistant [RA], says it’s not uncommon for people to lock themselves in their bathrooms. In fact, Horvath, a junior, got locked in herself during her freshman year in the dorms. Horvath’s roommates were around and let her out of the bathroom immediately. However, some residents aren’t so lucky.
“I’d say we average one incident a year where someone is locked into their bathroom for an extended period of time,” Daniele Conners, PRC residence coordinator, said. “The more serious incidents happen during breaks when roommates and suitemates are gone, but a person locking themselves in for shorter periods is not an uncommon occurrence.”
In addition to disabling the locks, workers will also be installing an additional shower rod and curtain to give students extra privacy.
“We’ve worked with student leaders and Student Government on this topic, and some students from Eaton showed us they already have a second rod up, so that’s why we’re adding one,” Redick said. “We also heard from many students that they already leave their doors unlocked in the suites.”
Students worried about security or privacy are being encouraged to talk to their suitemates.
“It’s the responsibility of the student to have a conversation with suitemates setting ground rules and working out schedules,” Conners said. “These are conversations that have to happen with roommates anyway, so it just needs to be extended to the entire suite.”
Some RAs agree that it may take time for people to feel comfortable with no bathroom locks.
“I think the reactions to this change will depend on if the suitemates are all friends,” Ashley Amon, MRC RA, said. “If it’s four freshmen who don’t know each other, it may be difficult, but it also depends on each individual’s personality.”
Other RAs are already planning to help students who will face this situation in the next few years.
“We have to get people to be in the mentality of picking three people they’re comfortable living with, rather than just a roommate,” Horvath said. “In the future, when people go to sign up for housing, I’ll be reminding and encouraging them to think more broadly.”
While members of the Department of Residence Halls are working to make the transition smooth and help students understand the necessity for the changes, some residents don’t mind the change.
“I don’t care,” Brian Bellinkoff, PRC resident, said. “I never lock my bathroom anyway. I trust my suitemates.”
Catherine Howden can be contacted at email@example.com.