Housing policy amended to allow holiday lights on campus

GVL / Archive
Amy Brinkerhoff

GVL / Archive Amy Brinkerhoff

Audra Gamble

Beginning Monday, decorative holiday lights will be allowed in all on-campus housing. For years, Grand Valley State University’s housing policy banned the festive string lights, citing fire safety concerns.

The popular dorm decorations will now be allowed in all university housing after a push from student senator and Residence Housing Association member Jonathan Bowman.

“When we had the rule, years ago, lights weren’t the same as they are now,” said Andy Beachnau, associate vice provost for student affairs and director of housing and health services. “They got hot, and it was all about fire safety.”

According to Beachnau, modern holiday string lights are much safer, and he has no problem allowing them in student housing. While the specific language to change the housing policy is still being worked out, students may immediately start hanging up holiday lights.

“Students can decorate the hall, the doors,” Beachnau said. “What I want to avoid is cross-doorway or if someone could trip or fall.”

The policy change took place after Bowman drafted a resolution, which was unanimously passed through student senate.

“I did some research on other universities and their housing policies. Most universities allow holiday lights in their dorms and residence halls,” Bowman said. “Talking with Beachnau, housing just wanted to see student support for this. It was something that was universally wanted. Nobody voted against it in senate.”

Bowman said this project was a goal RHA hoped to accomplish this year, and was encouraged by how well-received it was.

“It’s really awesome to see the change you can make as a student,” he said. “I wanted to create a combined force to get the most accomplished as possible. It’s a really great thing to be able to work together with other students.”

While string lights are allowed in hallways and dorms, there will be some restrictions once the policy language is finalized.

Beachnau said these restrictions will center on preventing accidents or additional fire hazards. No more than two strands of holiday lights will be allowed per outlet, and all holiday lights must be turned off when nobody is in attendance.

“I’m all for illumination, but I don’t want students up on roofs or hanging from the balcony,” Beachnau said. “We’re going to create language that makes it safe.”

Members of the housing and residence life office will meet on Jan. 11 to finalize the details of the policy change, and Beachnau hopes to see the language change take effect within a few weeks.

“We’re light-friendly today. We’ll get something out to residents, we have a working draft,” he said. “We’ll add it to the housing code very soon.”

While this change is expected to be widely well-received, it is not the only change to the housing policies this semester. An email was sent to all GVSU students living on campus notifying them that hoverboards are not allowed to be used or stored anywhere at GVSU, due to their potential combustibility. Additionally, notices have been posted in residence halls stating GVSU is a “drone-free zone.”

For Bowman, he hopes that more policy changes can be created by students, particularly through the collaboration of multiple student organizations.

“I have a couple of projects that I’m working on,” he said. “I’m waiting to make sure that (the holiday light change) is getting put in place and is official, first.”