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    November 2012

    Student Housing During Breaks

    Some schools, colleges, and universities allow students to live in residence halls when school is not in session. This could include athletes attending pre-season practices, student workers who help ready the campus for another academic year, and students for whom distance prevents returning home for short breaks.

    Issues may occur during these downtimes due to reduced staffing and services on campus when classes are not in session. To help members avoid or manage these risks, we've provided the following tips on identifying students who plan to remain in residence and notifying them about any policy or procedure considerations.


    Institutions should require students wishing to remain on campus over break to seek approval from and register with the housing department. This enables institutions to account for them if there is an emergency or unexpected event, contact them if necessary, and convey any details to staff in campus security, buildings and grounds, or residence life. Once a student has received approval to remain on campus, an institution should:

    • Describe the security the institution will provide, including the number of security officers on duty and their campus locations. The institution should be accurate and not promise a level of security that it cannot provide.
    • Provide the applicable rules or policies (see "Additional Information" for examples).
    • Report changes to schedules or services, such as dining hall and health center hours.
    • Provide a list of emergency phone numbers.
    • List the names and contact information of any residence life personnel on campus during the break.

    Sports, Other Activities, and Student Employees

    Student housing personnel should work closely with athletics or other departments that require students on campus during breaks. Supervisors or coaches should add participating students to the approved housing registration list to help ensure that only authorized students are registered.


    If possible, residence halls should be locked when school is not in session. Some electronic access systems can be programmed to permit entry to selected people only. In those cases, institutions should allow only those students who have permission to remain on campus over break. Some institutions change locks on students' rooms during longer breaks to prevent unauthorized access.

    Visitors and Gatherings

    Due to decreased staffing, institutions should restrict outside visitors, including students who have not been approved to remain on campus. However, some institutions will make exceptions for immediate family members. The institution must be certain it can enforce its visitation restrictions and follow its own policy. Reducing the campus population can prevent some higher-risk activities when proper supervision is absent. Campuses should suspend permission for residence hall parties during breaks.

    Building Maintenance

    Institutions should inform students of any planned maintenance or repair work in residence halls and the estimated timeline. In addition, they should provide a list of approved students and their room numbers to any personnel who will be entering students' rooms.

    Assumption-of-Risk Form

    Require students to sign an assumption-of-risk form that lists specific changes to policies or differences in security. This form, developed with general or outside counsel, documents that students are informed about any different or increased risks when staying on campus during breaks.


    For examples of residence hall break policies, please refer to the following:

    Barnard College
    Residential Life & Housing
    Winter Break Housing (and Extensions)

    Grinnell College
    Residence Life and Orientation
    Winter Break Student Housing


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