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Policy 3407

Room Entry and Search and Seizure Procedures

I. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to inform students of reasonable limitations in their privacy in certain circumstances.

II. Policy

Students can expect to have a reasonable degree of privacy in their rooms and suites and in the community at large. However, when circumstances warrant it, Longwood staff are authorized to enter a student's room utilizing a master key. Circumstances warranting entry relate to safety, security, health, legal or campus disciplinary concerns. Students are expected to cooperate with those conducting a search and/or carrying out their duties associated with room entry. The specific conditions under which room entry and/or search and seizure may occur are:

  1. Safety and Maintenance Inspections, Reviews or Repairs: Over the course of the academic year, staff are permitted to enter residence hall rooms during scheduled fire safety inspections, emergency evacuations and fire drills, and for reasons related to general safety and/or repairs. When students depart for vacation periods (Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break), staff conduct routine safety and health inspections of each residence hall room. Longwood University also reserves the right, for reasons related to safety, security, maintenance or emergency, to enter student rooms during the above and other scheduled vacation periods.
  2. Emergencies: Staff authorized by the University may enter a student room without permission in response to attempted or suspected suicide, fire, significant physical injury, medical emergency, or situations where there is a potential or actual threat to the security, health, or welfare of the resident(s) of the room, suite or surrounding community.
  3. Plain View Search: Prohibited, illegal, or stolen items, materials, substances, or possessions that are in plain view and encountered by staff during the normal execution of their duties - within or beyond the confines of a residence hall room - may be confiscated and used as evidence in a University disciplinary and/or legal proceeding. If a violation is suspected or observed in a room with the resident(s) and/or guest(s) present, a residence hall or other authorized staff member can conduct a plain view search in order to determine if prohibited, illegal or stolen items, material, substances, or possessions are discernible. During such searches, staff are limited to observing and seizing what is only in plain view, and cannot open drawers, closets, closed doors, refrigerators or any sealed area or property owned by the student(s). However, the student(s) can voluntarily open any closed area or personal belongings for plain view inspection during the course of the search. Plain view searches can also be conducted in the absence of the resident(s) in accordance with the procedures outlined above. In certain situations, Longwood University police, who must remain outside the room during the search (unless there is a perceived or actual threat to the personal safety or well being of those present), may be summoned to assist with confiscation procedures.
  4. Voluntary Search: Students have the option of providing written consent to have their room or personal area(s) searched when there is reasonable cause to believe they are in possession of prohibited, illegal or stolen items, materials, substances or possessions, or aware of or involved in a violation that is criminal in nature. Such searches shall be conducted by a campus police officer or local law enforcement official. Any evidence seized may be used in an institutional disciplinary and/or legal proceeding.
  5. Involuntary Search: When there is reasonable cause to believe that a student is in possession of prohibited, illegal or stolen items, materials, or substances, or has knowledge of or involvement with a violation that is criminal in nature, the Longwood University police or local law enforcement officials may request a search warrant. Also, under certain circumstances, the Vice President for Student Affairs or another vice president may authorize the involuntary search of a defined area for specific reasons. A copy of the permission to search form will be provided for the student(s) involved at the time of the search. Selected administrative employees will conduct the searches. Evidence secured as a result of an involuntary search may be used in a University disciplinary and/or legal proceeding.
  6. Suspected or Actual Use of Illegal Drugs: When residence hall staff are alerted to the possibility of illegal drug use in a student room, the Longwood University Police Department will be contacted and briefed about the matter. A decision will be made as to what type of search, plain view or involuntary, is necessary. Upon arrival, the staff member will identify himself or herself and inform the student(s) about the suspected violation. If students are not present or there is no response after knocking on the room door, the staff member is authorized to enter the area utilizing a master key. In the event that a plain view search is necessary, the police officer is required to wait outside of the room and accept any evidence discovered by the staff member. If the resident agrees and provides written consent, a voluntary search may be conducted by the Longwood University police.

Revised and approved by the Board of Visitors, December 2, 2011.
Revised and approved by the Board of Visitors, September 7, 2002.