Director of housing sheds light on controversial standard for determining punishment

Selby White, Staff Reporter

Housing and Residence Life sent an email in the Spring reminding all residents that tampering with the smoke alarm can lead to a termination of the housing contract. Housing recently emailed the community again, posting signs as well, ensuring that drastic consequences can and will be taken if fire alarms are tampered with. 

Director of Housing Kim Montague said the students are being reminded of the policies for their own safety. 

“Our policies haven’t changed but what we are looking at is safety features,” Montague said. “Our policy and our processes are looking at doing things for safety first. You live in a group environment. If you do something stupid, even if the intent isn’t there, that could still potentially impact people.”

Though the policy of evicting students from on-campus housing if they tamper with fire alarms is nothing new to Tulane, HRL is getting tougher on its enforcement. 

“I am a strong believer that there has to be consequence to behavior,” Montague said. “That doesn’t mean put behind bars and all that but definitely some real consequence. If you light a fire in a residence hall then this is just not a good place for you to live. I am also a strong believer that past behavior is sometimes the best predictor of future behavior.”

The housing Standard of Proof policy, which reads that housing staff needs to be 51 percent sure of guilt to charge a student, has come with student speculation.

The Standard of Proof in the Code of Student Conduct states, “the evidence must establish that it was more likely than not that the student committed the alleged violation.”

Sophomore Kelly Harmon, an Irby Hall floor representative, said she disagreed with the policy.

“Being more likely than not is basically just saying one only has to be at least 51 percent sure they are right,” Harmon said. “How would one even begin to quantify that?” 

Ross Bryan, assistant vice president of student affairs for housing and residence life, had trouble articulating this measure of violation. 

“Quantifying guilt and innocence is pretty tough but it is really just an educative conversation to be had with the student,” Bryan said. “We are not out to get anybody. We want to have a healthy, safe, secure community.”

Montague said the Standard of Proof policy is designed with the validity of evidence in mind.

“In terms of the 51 percent [policy], what we look at is if [evidence] is solid enough that they are responsible [or] not responsible for the violation policy,” Montague said.