On December 13, 2010, the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners passed Ordinance 2010-41, which establishes regulations for the inspection “of all rental units in Radnor Township, including student housing…(and) dormitories.” According to the ordinance, rental units such as dormitories will be subject to a minimum of one safety inspection every three years. It is expected that these safety inspections will be conducted by Radnor officials and will entail a fee of $100 per room.
The primary reason for the new regulations, according to the ordinance, is that “there is a greater incidence of maintenance and upkeep problems and disturbances adversely affecting the peace and quiet of the area at rental residential properties than at owner-occupied residential properties.” Furthermore, “a systematic inspection of rental units can avoid life threatening problems such as lack of fire and/or smoke detectors.”
University officials in the area are largely opposed to this ordinance and its implications. The primary complaint is that colleges already follow strict guidelines set by the federal government regarding dormitory safety.
Currently, Eastern performs safety inspections four to five times per year. Eastern’s Vice President of Student Development, Bettie Ann Brigham, has made the point that “administrators have a higher level of obligation to their own students. All colleges and universities are going to do the best they can to keep their students safe. Otherwise, they are going to suffer major litigation and losses.”
The additional cost for the universities and their students is also a problem. “Eastern does not have a lot of extra money floating around,” Brigham said. Because of this, students will need to cover the cost of the $100 fee.
Though the fee itself may not be substantial, it is not clear whether students will actually benefit from these inspections.
“We’re very conscientious about fees,” Brigham said. “We want them to be valuable. We want the ordinance to be reasonable and we want to feel that the ordinance accomplishes something, for the $100 that we would pay, and we cannot see that it would.”
For Eastern especially, there is more to this issue than just monetary costs. It is likely that these inspections will compromise residents’ privacy, which makes administrators like Brigham uncomfortable. She has pointed out that Eastern has “a very high level of privacy.”
“We assume compliance on all matters, but we do safety checks,” Brigham said. “We want students to feel like they have privacy, so if we go into a room, we’re going to have a good reason. Safety is one of them.”
University officials are taking action to avoid the ordinance. Eastern has retained an attorney and is issuing a counter-proposal which would establish a formal system for submitting documentation of the safety inspections already conducted by the university.
There are currently student-led campaigns at Eastern, Cabrini, Villanova and Valley Forge which aim to get resident students who are not active in the local politics of their hometowns to register in Radnor Township so that they might have a say in upcoming elections.
“As registered voters in Radnor Township, Eastern’s student body would have an enormous say in the decisions made in Radnor, many of which tend to be about our University,” said sophomore Kyle Pegon, who is the voter registration drive spokesman. This group hopes to get at least one thousand Eastern students registered by October of this year. They hope to have students contribute to the community in other ways as well.
“It is our hope that the students of Eastern will rise to this challenge and demonstrate to the people of Radnor the enormous value not only of this place, but also of the people that call it home,” Pegon said.
For more information on how to vote in the township, go to http://www.radnor.com.