The new school policy that allows OPP to enter unoccupied rooms to conduct routine inspections is not a terrible invasion of privacy. Students should stop making comparisons to the government’s secret wire-tapping and stop wondering if the maintenance staff is stalking them. Someone did not come into the dorm and take your chemistry textbook, you just lost it. The truth is that students are disappointed because they can no longer avoid room inspection. Any other outrage is due to overblown rumors. Room inspections are in place to make sure that there are no fire hazards in the dorm, such as excess clutter or burning candles. Inspections are one of many ways that the Office of the Physical Plant guarantees the safety of students at Phillips Academy. According to the Blue Book, “Fire inspectors will inspect dormitories weekly and will confiscate banned items. A house counselor will provide the inspector access to a student’s room if he or she is not home at the time of the inspection.” It is not likely that a house councilor would open a student’s room in his or her absence unless that room has gone unexamined for some time. Of course, if there is smoke coming out from under the door of your room, the nearest authority figure will give OPP access. When you make the decision to attend boarding school, you immediately surrender many small rights to privacy. Breakfast is no longer a quiet meal shared with your family, the newspaper, and early morning cartoons. Instead, it becomes a loud, crowded affair in a packed dining hall, where your conversation is shared with anyone who cares to take a seat at the table next to you. Other quotations from the Blue Book imply that privacy is taken from students’ lives in other ways, as well. According to page twenty-five: “Users must recognize that there is no guarantee of privacy associated with their use of academy technology resources. Users should not expect that e-mail, voice mail or other information created or maintained in the system are private, confidential or secure.” OPP will not wait until you have gone to class, take your room key from their secret stash, and sneak into your room to paw through your possessions in search of halogen lamps and fire hazards. They will not read your diary or try to decipher the initials you have written inside hearts all over your notebooks. In this way, privacy at Phillips Academy is actually (marginally) better than at home. Fire Inspectors are certainly more lenient than mothers when it comes to judging the cleanliness of your room. And at least they are only making sure the exits aren’t blocked, instead of commenting on your choice of posters or how you could do laundry once in a while instead of leaving your clothes in a pile on the floor. So relax, and stop wondering about OPP. Instead, keep an eye on your roommates.
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