Search and the Single Dormitory Room

This Note suggests that dormitory privacy should not be illusory. It argues that when a college breaches the standards of the fourth amendment in searching a student’s room, the exclusionary rule should proscribe reliance on the fruits of that search to punish the student.

The argument progresses in two steps. Section I observes that the guarantees of the fourth amendment apply to searches of college students’ rooms by college officials just as they apply to searches of any private dwelling by government officials. It traces the happy demise of Moore v. Student Affairs Committee, which allowed students only limited fourth amendment rights, and the elevation of students’ privacy rights to substantial equality with those of other adult citizens. Section II then contends that those rights require application of the exclusionary rule to bar illegally seized evidence from all college disciplinary proceedings that might punish the student severely. Two conflicting district court decisions, Morale v. Grigel and Smyth v. Lubbers, are compared by the light of three recent Supreme Court decisions construing the scope of the exclusionary rule. The Note concludes with a few simple recommendations for adapting the Constitution’s strictures to universities’ administrative regulations. Such regulations would let all members of the university family, even those without legal training, know the limits and the significance of dormitory privacy.