Graphic by Lynna Suy

Mustang News Editorial Board

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That’s the word students frequently used in a recent survey to describe their thoughts on drug-sniffing dogs coming into University Housing dormitories. And while it’s not a clear-cut issue on whether these dogs should be allowed, students should at least be aware they’re coming.

Cal Poly should explicitly inform students, both in person and in writing, that their homes could be subject to drug-sniffing dog searches during the course of the school year. In opening meetings for each of the halls, resident and community advisers should tell students dogs could be coming in during the year. In addition, a policy regarding drug-sniffing dogs should clearly be written in the University Housing handbook.

Our university is clear with its students that drugs are not allowed on campus. Everyone knows that, and few would mount a reasonable argument against the policy. But as University Housing strives to make its facilities a comfortable place for all students, it should include the peace of mind for students to know exactly what kind of measures can and will be used inside their residence.

It’s unclear just exactly how much students living on the Cal Poly campus know about what police can do with drug-sniffing dogs in University Housing. Some residents told us they were aware of the practice (a few even said the dogs have come this year, contrary to reports by police and Housing administrators), and some had no idea their buildings were subject to these searches. The only thing that was clear from speaking with these students is that it’s unclear what they know — and what they are expecting.

That’s not right. By being vague with students, intentionally or not, about what police can do in their residence halls, Cal Poly loses their trust. The university also doesn’t give students time to research their legal rights on what should happen if drug-sniffing dogs target their room.

Further, without a set policy for the use of drug-sniffing dogs, Cal Poly leaves itself open for abuse of the practice. If there are no limitations and students’ rights are not written down, the university and police can make up the rules as they go. This leaves a court of law as the only redress for students who feel they were treated unfairly by the university, with little accountability at the university level.

We understand Cal Poly wants to keep drugs out of its on-campus living environment. Nothing is wrong with that. But as a public university that aims for transparency and openness for and among its students, more definition is needed on the limits and use of this practice.

This represents the opinion of the Mustang News editorial board, which includes J.J. Jenkins, Carly Rickards, Sean McMinn and Olivia DeGennaro.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think your editorial is very balanced. The only exception I would take is with the following phrase: “their homes.” Students rent their homes, and the landlord is their public, state-supported university.

    The legal significance of living on campus is that under administrative law, individuals’ privacy rights are not as strong as in private home contexts. Mind you, I am not advocating more students should live off-campus if they want to use illegal drugs; I don’t want such students in the city’s neighborhoods either!

    And, on the subject of where students should live, I believe most students should live on campus. I would make exceptions for married students and graduate students, and perhaps seniors. And regarding the imbalance of student housing viz enrollment, I think the university should have a slow growth plan for enrollment, and build housing capacity before it increases enrollment.

    1. In my humble opinion, I completely think otherwise…..I’ll continue this sentence after I finish studying for my midterm! BRB!

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