UH shouldn’t censor students’ mailings
The University of Hawaii has intercepted a mailing by the student government to dormitory residents about privacy rights.
UNIVERSITY of Hawaii students surrender some of their privacy rights when they agree to live in dormitories, but even the most extreme version of the archaic doctrine of in loco parentis should not allow university officials to intercept their mail
. UH appears to have chosen to end a debate over searches of dorm rooms by censoring the other side, an outrageous policy for an educational institution.
The UH-Manoa student government sent letters through the intra-campus mailing office to 3,000 dormitory residents following complaints about security guards abusing their authority to search students. The letters told students, among other things, that they have a constitutional right to prohibit authorities from entering their rooms without a warrant.
The letters' information is wrong. The university's 53-page UH Residence Hall Handbook clearly states that UH officials may enter a resident's room "at any time" for a variety of reasons. Those include determining compliance with health and safety rules, providing maintenance, conducting inventory of UH property, searching for missing property, responding to "imminent danger to life, health and/or property" or acting with "reasonable cause" that housing rules are being violated.
Janice Chu Camara, the interim vice chancellor for students, properly advised the student government in a letter that the mailing contained "incorrect or misleading" statements. That fact did not justify interception of the mailing, which included allegations about abuses beyond room searches.
Grant Teichman, the student body president, said security guards have abused their authority by conducting searches of students and "asking for girls' phone numbers." On several occasions, he said, guards have searched grocery bags and coolers and pushed students around.
Such allegations deserve a robust debate about students' privacy rights and the university's security responsibilities. That debate cannot take place when the university chooses to censor students in their mailings.
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