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College shuts the door on open-door policy

Faculty and staff in Mills Hall must now work behind closed doors at all times, in compliance with the building’s fire code regulations.

An April 2 memo sent to the Mills community by the Office of the Provost stated that “Open doors constitute a fire hazard, and allow a fire to spread more quickly due to more oxygen that can fuel a fire.”

The memo explained that a closed door acts as a firewall, to slow the spread of flames and allow occupants more time to evacuate.
Officials from the Oakland Fire Department combed Mills Hall to remove all doorstops and stated that the College, as well as individuals, can be fined for propping their doors open at any time.

Although this measure is intended for their safety, some faculty and staff found it unacceptable.

Film studies Professor Ken Burke explained that Mills is supposed to maintain an open-door policy, meaning that professors are not to meet with students behind closed doors unless a student requests complete privacy.

“I support an open door to help guard against any situations or even suggestions of improper conduct, by either student or faculty, in a closed office,” Burke said.
Burke said that many of his colleagues share this concern, as well as the feeling of being cut off from their students, and vice versa.

“I feel we have now placed a barrier between us and those we are here to serve, namely the students,” said Jean Wong, Ethnic Studies administrative assistant.
Wong also noted that keeping the door to the Women of Color Resource Center makes the space less inviting.

“It will be challenging because at the heart of the conflict you have professors and staff who want to remain open and accessible to students and co-workers – literally,” added Wong’s neighbor, Modern Languages Administrative assistant Darci Arthur.

Many offices, especially those that get the most sunlight in the after-noon, are not well ventilated and can reach stifling temperatures on warmer days.
Wong noted that the temperature in her office can climb over 80 degrees on the hottest days.

“This is with the window open and the fan going full blast,” she said.

Burke pointed out another problem: ” I know from experience that many students are somewhat timid in knocking, so that a soft rapping could be at my door or one of three others that are about two feet from my door,” he said. “So unless I get a hearty knock I’ll likely be jumping up all day to see if it’s for me or not.”

The Office of Undergr-aduate Admission is also struggling to adjust to the new policy.

According to Dean of Undergraduate Admission Giulietta Aquino, staff members in the office are complying with the fire code regulations, and are trying to make the best of the situation.

“The Admissions Off-ice has always had an open door policy, though the work culture in our office prior to complying with the regulation was one where you would literally see 15 doors wide open,” Aquino said.

“Some prospective students think it seems quiet and odd,” she added. “But we tell them it’s a recent change, and not how we usually operate.”

The offices of Public Safety and Facilities are working with the Oakland Fire Department to see if the building’s hallways, currently deemed fire corridors, can be re-rated in order to allow doors to remain open.