peeping cops

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Apr 28 10:03:54 PDT 2000

Chronicle of Higher Education - web daily - April 28, 2000

Students Object to Late-Night Dormitory Inspections at U. of Montevallo By NINA WILLDORF

When several women at the University of Montevallo failed to react to the sight of a peeping Tom, officials responded with what students view as more peeping: surprise, middle-of-the-night inspections of dormitory rooms, looking for students violating the ban on guests of the opposite sex. More than 40 students now face charges for violating the rule.

Five female students sighted an unknown man in their all-woman dormitory at 7:10 a.m. one day in February. Normally, that would be reason for alarm, university officials believe. The Alabama institution has strict policies that prohibit visits from members of the opposite sex after midnight on weekdays and after 2 a.m. on weekends. And men are supposed to be escorted at all times by the person whom they are visiting.

"A guy wandering through the building at any time is in violation of the policy," said Freda Shivers, the director of housing and residence life. "These women didn't even think twice. One of them even gave him directions to the bathroom."

So administrators staged two middle-of-the-night surprise inspections this month, in an attempt to curb violations that they believed led to the women's nonchalant reactions. Five officials combed through seven dorms after midnight -- on a Wednesday and the following Tuesday -- knocking on doors and taking names of the guilty. According to Ms. Shivers, there were 22 instances in which students had people of the opposite sex in their rooms. In one case, five people were involved.

If it was a first-time offense, the punishment was not too severe: a point on the student's record. (An accumulation of 12 points means that a student can no longer live on the campus.) However, repeat offenders will have to do approximately five hours of community service. All guilty students have to take a written test on the university's housing policies and procedures.

Many students at the college were not pleased with the stealth raids. "It was like a scene out of Cops," said Starr Cline, a sophomore who wasn't given a chance to put on clothes before a female housing administrator unlocked her door and entered her room. "It was like a drug raid. I live on the third floor, what am I going to do, take those 30 seconds to throw my boyfriend out the window?" Ms. Cline was alone.

Ms. Cline put together a petition condemning the raids and requesting that they be the last. She plans to send the petition, which now has more than 350 signatures, to alumni as well as administrators. About 100 students also staged a demonstration Monday evening.

While Ms. Cline approves of the college's taking action on the peeping Tom, she felt the raids went too far. "There were cops surrounding the perimeter of the building," she said. "Surely there are better ways to deal with housing violations."

The peeping Tom is still on the loose.

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