College students suffer from an unfortunate lack of privacy rights in many situations. Dorms are the property of the university, thus school officials and campus police tend to feel a sense of entitlement with regards to entering student housing. Nevertheless, knowing and asserting your rights can help protect you on campus just as it would anywhere else.

The rental agreement for your dorm room should specify when school officials may and may not enter, so make sure you’re familiar with the terms of your lease and keep a copy on hand. In many cases, student housing affords less privacy protection than a standard rental agreement, so be mindful of the potential for random inspections and other intrusions that are common on college campuses.

Campus policies are written and enforced differently from one school to the next, so it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the rules and the people who enforce them. Although the campus environment may reduce individual privacy, it provides great opportunities to get to know school officials and security staff. Building good relationships with the people around you is the best strategy for preventing problems before they occur.

Regardless of the specific policies and practices at your school, it’s always wise to protect your privacy by politely refusing searches and declining to incriminate yourself. We’ve heard many success stories from college students who asserted their rights, so remember that keeping calm and knowing the rules will help improve your odds of avoiding problems.

Finally, we’ve observed that marijuana smoking is the quickest and easiest way to get in trouble in your dorm. Many schools put significant resources into catching and punishing marijuana users on campus, often resulting in severe sanctions such as arrest, removal from the dorms, suspension, urine testing, fines, parental notification, etc.