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Behind the curtain: Dorm decor and university-student trust issues


Being away from home can be a struggle for many underclassmen. After dealing with the stress of classes, work, extracurricular activities, and forming a new social circle, it would be ideal for them to be able to relax in a familiar, comfortable space at the end of each day. But dorm rooms aren’t the homiest of spaces.

It can be argued that tapestries – decorative woven art pieces – allow students to feel more at ease in a new surrounding, while allowing them to express their personality. At most universities, tapestries are accepted and encouraged forms of decor; yet, at Hofstra, they are banned from dormitories.

“At the University of Vermont, you’re allowed to have tapestries, as long as they’re six inches from the sprinklers. The walls in a dorm are bare, and a tapestry can be comforting in a place that feels like a jail cell,” said Sarah White, a sophomore at the University of Vermont.

Many UVM students choose to adorn their walls with fabric because of the aesthetic appeal, but also because tapestries make a dorm feel cozy. “A tapestry provides a warmth that a poster just doesn’t,” says White. With certain restrictions to insure safety, UVM students are able to enjoy these decorations without risking burning down their dorm.

So what’s Hofstra’s deal? Students should have the creative right to re-invent and personalize their dorm rooms – their living space for eight months per year – and that right is being restricted.

It is apparent that these restrictions are set for fire safety, but it is also apparent that students at other universities are trusted to hang tapestries whilst adhering to fire code. The debate over tapestries at Hofstra is no simple controversy, as safety will always prevail over decoration. Yet maybe Hofstra’s issue doesn’t exclusively concern tapestries and safety, but also, a lack of trust in its own students.

Shouldn’t our university have faith that its smart, independent and driven students will know better than to do something that would set a dorm on fire?

Colleges around the country work with their students to ensure that their tapestries and cloth wall ornaments adhere to their fire restrictions. But Hofstra would rather dismiss the subject entirely.

The true issue here is bigger than dorm decor; it reveals a distinction between this university and its students. Hofstra’s banning of tapestries suggests that the University is not confident that its students can make smart decisions.

How can Hofstra administrators claim that Hofstra students are model university students when they don’t even have the certainty that a bunch of budding, young adults won’t start a dorm fire with a piece of fabric?

Perhaps this institution – in which students invest their lives and finances – should invest some more confidence in its students.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.

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