Concord, Lexington resident students speculate true intent of inspections

Early last month, pink slips were posted on the doors of Concord and Lexington residents informing students of a routine health and safety inspection. The purpose of these inspections was to check for the standard fire extinguishers located underneath the stoves found in these two apartments, according to the Office of Residence Life.   However, after Concord residents received an email from an RA announcing that the inspections would also include alcohol paraphernalia, students of both halls began to speculate about the true intent of these inspections.

“Through the grapevine and other RAs we heard that they were to check our apartments for any alcohol décor, empty bottles or posters,” said senior Maria Satira, Lexington resident.

According to the Robert Morris University Alcohol Policy, “no residence hall room, lounge, common area, space or assigned student organizational suite may contain paraphernalia or equipment for drinking games.” The residents questioned the clarity of the university’s definition of alcohol paraphernalia, spurring rumors about its meaning.

When an RA informed senior Noah Purdy, a Concord resident, to remove alcohol-related signs in his apartment because the RA believed they violated the alcohol policy, he sent an email directly to John Michalenko, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life.

“What I’m NOT OK with is being told to do things I did NOT agree to in my housing contract, like remove decorations in an apartment where everyone is above the age of 21,” stated Purdy in his email to Michalenko.

Residence Life Director Ronald Shidemantle, Assistant Director Anne Lahoda and Michalenko all agreed with Purdy that his signs did not violate the university’s alcohol policy.

“My rule is this: If you’re over the age of 21, you have the right to have alcohol, alcohol-related decorations or beer pictures; you’re 21. You’re of age,” stated Michalenko.

Shidemantle failed to understand why such rumors among the 21 and over population would occur.

“I’m not so sure why anyone would be concerned about that because it is a wet campus. … [I]f anybody is spreading rumors, it would have to be people that are under 21 because why should people over 21 care?” questioned Shidemantle.

The only problem Shidemantle could foresee is an apartment with residents both under and over the age of 21.

“The problem comes when you have mixed ages in the apartments…you have stuff lying around that could get the person that is over 21 in trouble,” said Shidemantle.

Additionally, questions were raised involving empty bottles in the resident’s rooms. Neither Shidemantle nor Michalenko were against students over the age of 21 having empty bottles; however, having the bottles publicly displayed was a different concern.

It is clearly stated in item two of the RMU alcohol policy “possession, consumption or display of alcoholic beverages in any public area of the University buildings or grounds is strictly prohibited.”

“I believe in free speech and free display of things, but if it’s something that could be offensive to an entire community, you shouldn’t have that in your window,” said Michalenko.

While both the Office of Residence of Life and Michalenko acknowledged that the consumption of alcohol is an issue for the 77% of the 1569 students living on campus that are under the age of 21, last month’s inspections were not alcohol-related.

In the end, it appears it was a miscommunication between Concord’s RAs and its residents.

“I think the one RA got people nervous about those signs…I mean the RAs are people…whenever you’re getting something across to someone, sometimes you might misunderstand what someone means,” stated Lahoda.

In the hopes to prevent future rumors, Shidemantle and Lahoda both encourage students to simply visit the Office of Residence Life in Washington Hall.

“Our goal is to have a positive relationship with all the students… all it takes is someone coming to our office and asking to talk with us,” said Lahoda.