Caption: Junior Will Huddleston checks in his guest Caleb Robinson at the front desk of Hattiesburg Hall on campus. – Michael Kavitz/The Student Printz
In early November, the Department of Residence Life listened to students and departed from its old overnight visitor policy and moved to what has been called a less restrictive one.
The old policy states that Southern Miss students are allowed to have overnight guests of the same sex if they are a USM student, 16 years or older and the hall supervisor is provided at least 24 hours notice to the guest staying, according to the Residence Life Handbook.
However, the revised policy removes the USM student requirement and allows anyone 16 years or older of the same sex to spend the night if the hall supervisor has at least 24 hours prior to the guest’s overnight stay, according to the Residence Life Handbook.
Safety was the reason for the first decision to limit overnight guests to USM students.
“We were encouraged to limiting guests in the residence hall to USM students only after multiple incidents of violence on campus” involving non-students occurred, according to Scott Blackwell, director for the Department of Residence Life.
He stressed the decision was “not made lightly nor was it made without careful thought and consideration of the well-being and safety of students who live on campus in the residence halls.” Many roommate issues involved non-students’ staying, according to Blackwell.
The age-sex requirement has always been university policy. It was “to protect students and safeguard the academic nature of the residence halls,” Blackwell said. He distinguished the difference between overnight guest regulations and visitation guidelines.
“(Visitation guidelines) have allowed non-student guests to visit a residence hall provided that guest is accompanied by the host resident at all time while the guest is in the hall and the guest is registered at the front desk of the residence hall visited,” Blackwell said.
From 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday through Thursday, guests are allowed to visit. From 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday through Saturday, guests are allowed to visit.
The Southern Miss student requirement was removed in early November when SGA leaders listened to their constituents.
“SGA President Jeffrey George and SGA Senator Douglas LeBlanc visited me about students’ concerns and asked that we in the Department of Residence Life reconsider the mandatory USM student part of the Overnight Guests policy,” Blackwell said.
After listening to the SGA and discussing the concerns with staff in the department, the Department of Residence Life decided that non-students staying the night would not compromise students’ safety.
USM students think the change is progress for the school.
“I think it’s a good idea. It didn’t make much sense that, before, a student that lives here could stay the night but someone from out of town couldn’t,” said Lauren Blankenship, a junior forensic science major. “If my friend from back home wants to visit, then she should be able to stay the night.”
Haley Zirlott, a freshman broadcast journalism major, also thinks it is a needed rewrite of the rules.
“It’s a great change. If my friend from home wants to visit, it would be more convenient for her to stay the night with me than to rent a hotel room for one night so she doesn’t have to drive two hours at midnight to get home,” Zirlott said.
“I think that this is a fantastic recruitment opportunity for USM,” said Madison Etheridge, a freshman English major. “It allows potential students to come to campus and experience all that USM has to offer. Overnight stays will also allow them the opportunity to get the chance to see themselves at USM.”