Asking students to bid farewell to their Animal House posters and their Starry Nights is one way to ensure the safety of those living on campus. Another more comprehensive approach would ban curtains, linens, rugs and even books, common dorm-room furnishings that could also catch fire with one careless flick of a lit cigarette.
In a logic-defying, laughable move, Yale rooming inspectors slapped dozens of freshmen with $100 fines for hanging posters in their dormitory suites in Lanman-Wright Hall. While rules may prohibit items that pose threats as fire hazards, fire officials would be wise to shrug off this ridiculous fining frenzy, which seems more like a thinly-veiled attempt at discouraging smoking indoors than anything else.
Eugene Wells, supervisor of Saybrook and Trumbull colleges’ custodial services, conducted the inspections in Lanman-Wright and other dormitories last week and explained his rationale: “I consider all posters to be fire hazards. Even though there’s no smoking, people don’t adhere to that rule. If a cigarette would come into contact with a poster, that would cause a fire.”
That said, Mr. Wells, catching a couple of freshmen enjoying a Marlboro indoors hardly represents justification to reprimand students who want to cover the Yale White walls with some colorful posters. Student smoking in dormitories would be the source of a problem, if one actually existed. Unlike their older counterparts, the castigated freshmen may not understand the ease with which fines can be circumvented. Scaring them, and their parents, is one way to say that the University is serious about its housing rules. But the whole affair was so ridiculous and impractical that the message was lost in a whirlwind of mockery. Yalies do not mind abiding by common sense regulations that make their four years here fire-free. They do mind an administrative gaffe that would have made more sense as an April Fools’ joke.