After three weeks of winter break to reflect on their first semester of Yale, students in 61 Lanman-Wright Hall (L-Dub) suites returned to find that they had received a failing grade — in a fire inspection.
Sixty-one suites of Pierson and Saybrook freshmen had a white sheet of paper titled “YALE UNIVERSITY: Fire Inspection Report” with the word “FAIL” circled, while 14 remaining suites passed. Meanwhile, in Vanderbilt, the only Old Campus dormitory of similar size, 61 suites passed the inspection and only 19 suites failed.
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In more than 20 interviews, many freshmen said they are questioning the fairness of the inspections. Anthony Kearns, director of Utilities Distribution and Fire Code Compliance, said the process is objective. Still, the reason behind L-Dub’s rash of failures remains unclear.
Kearns explained that residents of L-Dub had so many failures because of blocked fire doors. But less than half of the failures (26 of the 61 infractions) were related to fire doors, according to data from Kearns’ office. Two-thirds of those 26 infractions were strictly door violations, while the other one-third were cited in combination with other violations.
Two different inspectors examined each dorm, and the fire marshals simply used a checklist and marked what they saw, Kearns said. He said he does not think there is a discrepancy between L-Dub’s inspection and the inspection of other dorms.
“I don’t think we’re being too harsh,” Kearns said. “It’s pretty black and white.”
And the buildings with the most failures were not necessarily inspected by the same fire marshal, according to the data. The same inspector who failed the 61 L-Dub suites also passed 12 of 21 Welch Hall suites, while the Vanderbilt inspector failed 22 of 27 Durfee Hall suites.
Passes and failures in other dormitories were more evenly distributed. For example, in Lawrance Hall, which houses students from Ezra Stiles College, 15 of 27 suites, or 56 percent, passed the inspection, while 12 suites, or 44 percent, failed.
Throughout Old Campus, Kearns said, the two most cited fire safety violations were coffee pots and microwaves.
Of 20 L-Dub residents interviewed, 17 said they had failed and found the inspection unfair.
A fourth floor resident of L-Dub, who said he wished to remain anonymous to avoid retribution from the fire marshal, said his room was cited for “clutter.”
“We were pretty responsible and [our room] was relatively clean,” he said. “The Christmas lights they cited us for were unplugged.”
Melissa Cail ’13 said she had covered her microwave with a towel, but it was still cited.
Kearns said that while fire marshals may not open any non-entry doors, they are allowed to lift towels or sheets if they suspect that a microwave is underneath them.
But Ashley Ferguson ’13, a resident of Vanderbilt, said many students who covered their microwaves with towels in her building were not cited for microwave violations.
Not every student who failed the inspection thought it was unjustified. Mira Vale ’13, whose L-Dub suite failed the fire inspection, said her suite’s fire door was blocked, and deserved the citation.
Students who received a “FAIL” grade must return the citation forms to the Yale Office of the Fire Marshal. There is not a fine for the first infraction, said Robyn Harrison, an assistant in Kearns’ office, but there is for repeat offenders. The cost has yet to be determined, Harrison said.