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Committee considers student input in devising new fire safety policy

Students receiving citations for little-understood fire safety violations may be a thing of the past.

The Residential Guide Policy Review Committee met yesterday to discuss dormitory inspection procedures, specifically, to address student concerns regarding fire safety, Director of Housing, Tom Miller, said. The committee will have to meet a second time to conclude presentations and discussion.

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USG Senator Carlos Lazatin '99 presented a USG proposal to the review committee along with several personal accounts of students' discontent with the fire inspection procedures.

Lazatin said the "audience looked very receptive" to his presentation. He said he expects that there will be some change in next year's Residential Living Policies and Dining Services Guide in response to the USG's "very reasonable proposals."

USG proposal

The USG proposal addressed four main student concerns. First, it asked that restrictions be lifted on tapestries and wall hangings. This could effectively eliminate the maximum 25-percent rule for wall coverings. Miller suggested that an alternative safety regulation might require decorations to be a minimum distance from a heat source.

The second USG proposal was to lower fines and increase the number of warnings given to students who are cited for blocking their second means of egress.

The USG also asked that the restriction on door decorations be lifted. Lazatin said University fire marshall Robert Gregory said the inside of doors should be kept bare for safety purposes, but added that the outside of doors "aren't really a safety concern."

Finally, the USG requested that rice cookers be allowed as an acceptable appliance in dorm rooms.

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Miller said this is the first time the committee reviewed presentations from students. Robert Smart, the director of maintenance, said the student input spurred "fruitful discussion" and "fresh thinking" among committee members.

Lazatin's presentation included slides of professors' offices in the Wilson School that showed notices and signs posted on doors. Lazatin called this practice "a double standard."

Lazatin researched fire safety codes at Harvard, Yale and Rutgers universities and said, "None of these schools have stipulations on decorations."

On April 24, the USG will release recommendations for procedural reforms including a code of conduct for fire inspectors and a formal appeals process for students cited with violations.

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USG president David Ascher and Lazatin both agreed that an annual examination of housing policies would be useful.

"The process of gathering input has to be continuous," Ascher said.

Lazatin said he feels "very fortunate to be able to sit down and discuss these issues with the housing department."