A Fresh Start: curfew in the halls of residence at St Petersburg University cancelled long ago

Three students returned to the hall of residence after 1am. The door was closed and they were not allowed inside as they had been warned previously. The guys started banging on the window sills and shaking the doors. They were about to enter through the window at the ground floor, when the guard woke up from the noise and let them in out of pity scolding them for being late... 

The same situation repeated many times. If students came back to the hall of residence after midnight, they were not allowed inside. The halls of residence at Leningrad State University and St Petersburg University had the so-called curfew for more than one decade. The doors were closed for the night, while the guards ‘rested’ till morning.

At the University

The situation started to change only in 2005 when the Faculty of Law was provided with its ‘own’ Hall of Residence No 18 at 77 8th Line, Vasilyevsky Island. At that time, only the students of law were placed there and the Dean of the Faculty of Law was responsible for the condition of the building, as well as food, healthcare, organisation of the settlement process and rules inside the hall of residence. Deputy Dean in charge of the hall of residence submitted an order to be signed by Nikolay Kropachev, the then Dean of the Faculty of Law, imposing a punishment on the law students for violating the curfew.     

The Dean was furious. At first, he ‘gave an unsatisfactory grade’ to his deputy, a teacher at the Faculty of Law, for not knowing the fundamentals of the housing legislation.  Section 4 of the Housing Code of the Russian Federation determines that ‘no one can be limited in their rights to use the housing’. And the hall of residence becomes such housing for the student for the period of the studies. The words of the Deputy Dean that ‘the curfew is introduced in all halls of residence at St Petersburg University’ were not a good reason to violate the law, according to the Dean. The Deputy Dean received another ‘unsatisfactory grade’ in his major subject of criminal law for performing an action constituting a crime (abuse of power), namely, issuing an order to establish the curfew, which violates the rights of the residents. At the request of the Dean, Deputy Dean revoked his order on the curfew at Hall of Residence No 18. For the first time, new rules were introduced in the Russian Federation and Hall of Residence No 18 at St Petersburg University allowed for 24 hours access for its residents (Biography of the Rector of St Petersburg University).

Thus, the curfew has not been applied at Hall of Residence No 18 since 2005. It was much later after assuming the position of the Rector at St Petersburg University that Nikolay Kropachev learned that the curfew in all other halls of residence continued up till 2008. At that time, the follow up system was not yet established. There was no Virtual Reception and the Rector held his meetings in different faculties and buildings to get the real information about the status of affairs at the University.  

The information came from the law enforcement. In the course of several months, a number of female students were attacked near the halls of residence. Noteworthy, no such attacks were recorded around the hall of residence for law students. The analysis revealed that female students were attacked by a maniac that stalked them near the hall of residence. Then, it became clear that the curfew was still applied there. That is why the students who failed to come back on time had to walk around waiting for the opening hours. Unfortunately, several attacks of the kind took place. The Rector took the decision to replace the Deputy Rector for Security, the management of the halls of residence, and several guards. The rules of the 24-hour access to the halls of residence at St Petersburg University was introduced in all buildings, while the maniac was detained with the active help of the guards of the halls of residence at St Petersburg University.

The students always supported the 24-hour access. They did not like to look for a place to stay for the night during the curfew. Only the guards were against cancelling the curfew, since it was convenient for them to just close the entrance doors to the building and sleep through the night. They explained that they were taking care of the students that way.

The rule of the 24-hour access to the halls of residence fully corresponds to the requirements of the current legislation. Access to the sites of St Petersburg University is determined by the Provisions on the access control regime that can be found  on the website. According to section 2.8.8. of these Provisions, the students residing at the University Halls of Residence Complex under the rental contract for a specialised accommodation shall be allowed to the hall of residence upon providing a pass at any time of the day and night. It should be noted that the students have to provide a pass to enter the building, which excludes third persons entering the building at night. Visitors (section 2.8.9 of the Provisions) are allowed to the halls of residence from 8am to 11pm based on one-time passes upon providing their IDs and accompanied by the residents of the hall of residence with an entry in a visitor's record book (Round-the-clock access to the halls of residence: let it stay if you can’t cancel it).

All around the country

The Housing Code guarantees the right to use the accommodation independently on the time you come home. However, only in the spring of 2014 the Ministry of Education and Science noted that they often received complaints from the students that were not allowed into the halls of residence (Moscow24: ‘The curfew in the halls of residence is illegal’).

In May 2014, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation sent a letter to the rectors of universities prohibiting to establish curfews at the halls of residence: ‘The existing practice of limiting the rights of the students living in the halls of residence to enter and exit the halls of residence at night fails to correspond to the current legislation’. At the same time, the universities were proposed to choose the order that will prevent third persons from entering the halls of residence and decrease the number of illegal actions (ТАSS: The Ministry of Education and Science calls for the rectors to cancel curfew at the students’ halls of residenceGarant: ‘Curfew’ at the student's halls of residence has been cancelled).

A month later, the survey conducted by the city office of a student ombudsman demonstrated that many universities at St Petersburg did not cancel the curfew despite the request of the Ministry of Science and Education. The highest number of complaints came from the students of the largest universities in St Petersburg including: Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University; Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology; Baltic State Technical University VOENMEH named after D.F. Ustinov; St Petersburg State Paediatric Medical University; State University of Aerospace Instrumentation; Russian State Hydrometeorological University and Pushkin Leningrad State University (Russian education: Universities at St Petersburg failed to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia on cancelling the ‘curfew’). Students’ complaints helped to find the universities that abused the rule in Moscow and other cities (Moscow24: Students complained of the ‘curfew’ to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office).

At the same time, it was stated that in 40% of the halls of residence those students that were allowed in during the curfew were then reprimanded and had to write an explanatory report. The violators’ pass and student ID were withdrawn, while the students underwent psychological abuse and were made to clean the territory. In the remaining 60% of cases, students had to spend the night outside or lose their place in the hall of residence for missing the curfew and arriving late several times.

Our University was able to avoid such mistakes acting independently long before the Ministry orders.  At first, students can access the halls of residence both during the day and at night – 24 hours. Secondly, students are not punished for arriving late at night.   The initiative coming from the management of the Faculty of Law at St Petersburg University has been successfully implemented.

If you have come across a violation of rules defining interaction with the halls of residence, please, tell us about it via the Virtual Reception at St Petersburg University.