Housing and Dining Preps for Inauguration

Hey Becka Tells All Readers,

Another post from my time in my reporting class. Because I attend AU, in Northwest DC, the Inauguration of Barack Obama in January 2009 was a big deal on campus. We had to do all sorts of preparation for the influx of guests and visitors on campus; so Housing and Dining instated a new policy on campus. Check it out!

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The American University Housing and Dining Department prepared this week for a rush of guests in dormitories for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

The record-breaking turnout brought millions to Washington D.C., and almost anyone in town exploited it – including on the American University campus.

Housing and Dining officials said that for security purposes, they do not release information on the occupancy in residence halls, and therefore would not provide a number of guests who stayed on campus over the long weekend.

Officials imposed a special registration process over the weekend to make sure only people authorized to stay in the dorms entered the dorms.

In a Jan. 5, 2009 e-mail to students, Housing and Dining said “In order to promote safety, American University will initiate a special guest registration process for the period of Friday, Jan. 16 to Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009.”

The special registration gave guests permission to stay beyond the usual limit for visitors, which is three days. Instead, they were able stay for five days.
However, guests had to obtain a special guest ID card, which is not usually the case.

Residents can normally claim an unlimited number of people who do not live in the building, regardless of whether they live on campus, or are AU students. During the inauguration weekend, residents could claim only their guests and students with a valid, current AU ID.

The policy was enacted to prevent any visitors to campus who are unauthorized to enter the dorms to somehow sneak in with a large group of people according to Sean McGrath, resident director for Hughes Hall.

“This policy makes it easier for Housing and Dining to do their jobs,” McGrath said. “This makes it less likely that everyone will be able to abuse the claiming system, and claim seven people,” he added. “Security is our No. 1 priority.”

Another concern is making sure that guests do not violate fire codes, McGrath said. That is the reason for the limit of guests that can be registered for each building.

“These buildings are 40 to 60 years old,” McGrath said. “We need to go easy on the pipes.”

Leah Gates, resident assistant for the sixth floor of Hughes Hall, said that her floor had about 10 guests for the inauguration weekend. “I’m surprised that campus isn’t visibly more crowded,” she said.

To deal with the influx of people on her floor, she revisited community guidelines regarding quiet hours and courtesy hours at the opening meeting for the semester.

Quiet hours are between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays and 1 am – 8 am on weekends. Courtesy hours are considered to be 24/7. Students are expected to always keep music, TV and general conversation at a reasonable level.

Because of the nature of the inaugural weekend, Gates said she “definitely expected more noise complaints.”

Gates worked extra shifts to accommodate the influx of guests. The front desk for every dormitory was double staffed, and there were 2 RAs on duty at all times for the extended weekend.

During her RA duty shifts, she said that there were “definitely more calls than usual.” However, during shifts at the front desk, she “expected less cooperation in terms of showing IDs.”

Several students said they hadn’t noticed too much of a change in security or noise over inauguration weekend. Jennifer Hoefler, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she felt that her floor didn’t really feel the influx of people as much as others may have. “I haven’t noticed much of a change,” she said.

In fact, Hoefler has been questioning how vital all these precautions were for safety. “What’s the point of the extra staff?” she asked. “Do you really need an extra person to look at ID cards?”

Hoefler wondered what those ID cards did after they were given out. “Once a guest has an ID card and a friend, they can do whatever they please,” Hoefler said.

“And if they damage something on the floor, how do you know who did it?” Hoefler added. “It functions to make sure the buildings are structurally sound and to make sure our toilets don’t overflow, but not to make sure the whole floor doesn’t get charged for somebody else’s guests or even to make sure the students are safe in the traditional meaning of the word.”

Housing and Dining Programs had no comment on the inauguration weekend.

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About beckawall

AU Alumni, feminist, master of peanut butter brownies. Lover of Teddy Roosevelt, politics, analyzing popular culture, and general nerdery.

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