Multimedia reporting by Liam Collins

Festive decorations can make dorm rooms feel more like home, but string lights — arguably one of the most popular decorations — are against Elon University’s Residence Life policies.

Ian Reynolds, assistant director of Residence Life for facilities and housing operations, said they’re prohibited for safety reasons.

“String lights are typically made from a halogen bulb of different variations, and halogen bulbs can heat up to very high temperatures,” Reynolds said. “If they crack, the spark can ignite and cause a fire.” 

Reynolds said even though he has only been at Elon for three years, he said he believes the rule extends as far back as residence halls have been around. Elon News Network was unable to confirm this.

All Resident Assistants (RAs) are instructed to tell their residents to take these down if they see them. Failure to remove them will result in a fine for the resident.

“We have regular health and safety inspections during the semester where student staff go into their spaces and they inspect for prohibited items primarily,” Reynolds said.

Junior Gavi Schankerman, an RA on the first floor of Virginia Hall, said he trusts his residents to abide by the rule or find alternative decorating options.

“I care that my residents are following rules, but if they tell me that the string lights are battery operated, I will believe them,” Schankerman said.

Freshman Dorothy Boudett is one of Schankerman’s residents. She said she decorates her room with these lights and does not understand why these lights are prohibited. 

“I feel like they’re a good way to show festive attitude toward the holiday,” Boudett said. “I don’t really get how they’re hazards, so I think it’s kind of a stupid rule.”

Freshman Srija Dutta, another resident on the first floor of Virginia, has battery operated lights, but said she did not understand the rule either.

“If it was really a big problem, then other schools wouldn’t allow it,” she said. 

She questioned the relevance of the rule as she then asked, “How many statistics do you hear about things happening from string lights?”

Wake Forest University’s housing policies do not specifically prohibit string lights. Davidson College’s housing policies, as posted on the college’s website, allow the lights with some guidelines: “Holiday lights should not be strung through suspended ceiling tiles or near fire suppression sprinkler heads and should not come into contact with any wrapping paper, metallic foil, etc. Decorative lights must be turned off and unplugged when no one is in the room.”

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s (ESFI) website, consumers should use caution when decorating with string lights.

“They can increase the risks of fire and electrical injuries if not used safely,” ESFI said. To avoid fires, their site recommends using reputable lights, carefully inspecting strands for frayed or exposed wires and avoiding overloaded outlets. 

Dutta said she believes Residence Life should be more concerned with upholding other regulations.

“If residents are abusing [string lights] or causing some sort of a problem because of them, then the RA should interfere,” Dutta said. “But other than that, I think there are more pressing matters at hand that they should be a little more concerned about.”


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