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USG proposes less stringent fire safety inspections, codes

It's an all-too-familiar scenario to some students. Seconds after returning to your room from the shower, you hear a knock: "Fire inspectors." Without further delay, the inspectors make their entrance and proceed to go through the room as you stand watching, clad in nothing but a towel.

The avoidance of this and other embarrassing situations is one of the goals of measures to reform fire and safety policy reform introduced by USG senator Carlos Lazatin '99. According to Lazatin, the manner in which such policies are enforced is "excessive, sometimes bordering on abusive."

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Among the issues the USG is addressing are the early hour at which inspections sometimes occur, the often unexpected entrance of inspectors and the severity of fines levied for discovered violations.

"The housing department collects $30,000 in fines per year," USG president Dave Ascher '99 said. "We are afraid that this could become a moneymaking enterprise for the University."

Stringent regulations

Lazatin, who campaigned for his USG position on a platform of reforming fire policy and procedures, researched the fire and safety codes at Harvard, Yale, and Rutgers universities and found that those schools had "less stringent regulations." In cooperation with Graduate Student Union president Kyle Morrison, he developed a strategic plan of action through which both substantive and procedural issues can be addressed, Lazatin said.

In researching the prospect of reforming the fire policy, Lazatin met with University Fire Marshall Bob Gregory, who explained that the University is constrained by both state housing and fire codes enforced by local agencies throughout the state. Some aspects of the campus fire and safety codes affect the state policy, Gregory added.

The USG plan outlines the common problems expressed by students concerning current University policy and suggests ways that problems can be reconciled. The proposals include an appeals process for fines and an expansion of the variety of approved appliances that can be used in dorm rooms.

According to associate housing director Harold Szenes, students have continual and can access the Housing Department to voice concerns and to appeal decisions of the fire and safety inspectors. Szenes said Lazatin's discussion of his concerns with Housing officials as an example of this access.

'Personal space'

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The USG proposals also include creating a code of conduct "emphasizing courtesy" for fire inspectors. "Fire inspectors are not the most considerate people sometimes," Lazatin said. Szenes said fire inspectors currently operate under a code of conduct based on the University's respect of students and their rights.

Ascher requested that inspectors, who reserve the right to enter rooms without giving prior notice, knock and "wait a sufficient amount of time for a response" before proceeding with inspections.

Lazatin presented his ideas about reforming policy at the Feb. 15 meeting of the USG and said the issue of "the University's right to regulate personal space" is being taken very seriously by the USG.

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