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Ethan Wu for Spectator

Christopher Godshall, CC '15 and Columbia College Student Council student services representative, met with Columbia Housing to revise the policy after students complained about the proposed $5 fee.

Columbia Housing is looking for alternative ways to reduce lockouts without charging students.

Previously, Housing had proposed implementing a policy to charge students $5 after their third visit to the Hartley Hospitality Desk to pick up a spare key, and $20 after the second time their key was delivered to their room. 

But after negative student reactions, Housing is considering making students who have repeated room lock-outs meet with their graduate housing directors or associate directors to discuss the problems rather than pay a fee for key loans. The $20 fee for repeated key assists would stay in place.

“Taking into consideration student feedback and evaluating together with its advisory committee and Residential Programs, Housing is still finalizing details of the new policy,” a spokesperson for Columbia Housing said in a statement. “It will still include a fee structure for key assists, but may take an approach with key loans similar to the current Residential Programs administrative conduct process. However, these details need to be further vetted within Housing and Residential Programs.”

The spokesperson added that the goal is to make a “close-to-final” policy decision by Room Selection and to pilot the program in September 2014. 

According to records supplied by Columbia College Student Council student services representative Christopher Godshall, CC '15, an average of 1,600 students are locked out of their rooms each month. Housing hopes to reduce that number with the policy change.

Godshall met with representatives from Housing last week to discuss alternative solutions after hearing student concerns.

“This is a better way to get these numbers down for borrowed keys when you go to the desk yourself,” Godshall said. 

Godshall said that meeting with residential life staff after three room lockouts would be more effective than charging students.

“If their goal is to change behavior, a more effective way to do that would be to talk to that student and follow up with that student if they're continuing to exhibit the behavior they're trying to change versus just charging them,” Godshall said. 

Godshall added that a charge “in a way, kind of condones the behavior.”

The discussion comes after Sinclair Target, CC '15, started a petition against the proposed charge, which garnered more than 290 signatures from students as of Sunday. Target said he supported the newly suggested policy change.

“I think it's a much better alternative,” Target said. “This is at least addressing the problem directly. They're trying to help people remember their keys rather than just punishing them for being forgetful, which I don't think is very fair.” 

Target said that many students were turned off by Housing's proposal to charge them for lockouts. 

“A lot of people thought it was unfair to charge students for something they were already trying their best not to do,” Target said. “The money was an issue and Columbia charges a lot for a lot of things, and they didn't think it was a good idea to be charged more for something else.” 

Godshall said that he did think the $20 charge for repeated key assists would remain in place.

"They just can't have hospitality desk people running around like that. They're going to do something about it,” Godshall said. “The numbers were so high that  they say they were going to hire a new person to take care of this if the numbers were to stay where they are.”

Godshall also contextualized the cost of hiring a new employee as roughly equivalent to buying new desk chairs for all of the dorms in Hartley, while the funds that Housing had anticipated receiving from the fine would roughly equal the cost of desk chairs for one floor.

"There's really nothing we can do about it. They're pretty determined,” Godshall said. “I think that from the comments, people were more okay with this policy than the other one.”  |  @ezactron

Columbia Housing keys room lockouts
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