Residential Life Policies

Swarthmore College is committed to student learning in and out of the classroom and thus supports the personal and leadership development of students through extracurricular activities. Swarthmore’s housing philosophy is based on the belief that residence-hall living enhances education by contributing to an individual’s academic, social, and personal development. If residence halls are to provide an environment for personal growth, residents must accept responsibility for their own actions and demonstrate respect for the rights and concerns of others and for the property of the College.

General housing policies and regulations are established by the Dean’s Office. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the policies and rules concerning their conduct in the residence halls. Acceptance of space in College housing reflects a knowledge of and willingness to abide by housing policies. Living in College housing is a privilege and not a right. The Dean’s Office may, at any time and at its own discretion, withdraw this privilege due to behavior which does not rise to the standards outlined below. Students who lose their housing privileges are not entitled to a refund of their room and board charges for the remaining weeks of the semester.

Housing Eligibility

Eligibility for College housing is contingent upon full-time enrollment status, an up-to-date College student account, and on-time participation in the room selection process. To reside in College housing, students must be in good financial and behavioral standing with the College, and must satisfy any outstanding fees owed to the College prior to move-in day. Students with outstanding balances will not be able to move into their residence hall rooms or collect their keys until the matter is resolved.

Students are eligible for eight (8) terms of College housing, including terms spent on foreign study.  Students may request housing after their eighth (8th) semester but it is subject to limited availability.

Conditions of Occupancy

Students living in College housing agree to abide by rules, regulations, and policies stated in the Student Handbook. Violations of residence hall rules and regulations are considered to be violations of College policy, and will be referred to the Director of Student Conduct. Residents must accept responsibility for their own behavior and act in a manner that demonstrates respect for the rights and concerns of others and for the property of the College.

Official occupancy dates for the residence halls are listed in the academic calendar. Residence halls remain open during fall break, Thanksgiving break, and spring break. Residence halls are closed to students during winter break. Specific winter vacation dates are set each year, but generally include a 4-5 week period from mid-December through mid-January. No meals are served during fall and spring breaks.

When the residence halls are closed, no student may be in the building. Students found in residence halls when they are not authorized to be are subject to fines and are referred to the Director of Student Conduct.

Room Assignments

Most students live in college residence halls all eight semesters. New students are required to live in the residence halls during their first two semesters. After their first year at the College, students are permitted to live in non-College housing.

All new students are assigned roommates and residence hall room by the Dean’s Office. During the spring semester, rising senior, junior and sophomore students select rooms for the following fall. Each student receives a lottery number, based on their official class year, which dictates his/her priority status in lottery room selection. The College guarantees housing for all students who participate in the housing selection process in a timely manner. While many seniors and some juniors live in single-type rooms, the College cannot guarantee that a single will be available for any student.  First-year, sophomore, and junior students generally live in doubles, triple, or quad-style rooms.

A mixture of class years live in each residence hall. About 90 percent of residence hall areas are designated as gender-neutral housing either by floor, section, or entire building. The remaining areas are single-gender housing. Although single-gender options are offered, they are not always available and as such cannot be guaranteed.

Room Access

Any member of the Dean’s Office, accompanied by Public Safety or any other person or entity the Dean’s Office believes appropriate may enter and inspect a residence hall room without the resident’s consent, if there is any reason to believe that any College regulation or state, federal or local law is being or has been violated.  Any member of the Dean’s Office, Public Safety or College personnel may also enter a room in order to check the health or welfare of a student.

Arrival and Departure Dates

Students may neither arrive early at the beginning of a semester nor remain in College housing after the announced closing date without special permission from the Dean’s Office. A fine of at least $100 will be assessed, per day, for violations of this policy, and the case referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Individuals found to be in the residence halls without permission will be required to relocate immediately.

Room Changes

Requests for room changes can be made by contacting the Office of Student Engagement. Making a room change request does not ensure that a room change will be made. Students are expected to work through roommate and other housing conflicts with the involved parties, with the help of resident assistants (RAs) and deans and/or through mediation, if appropriate.

All students are expected to occupy the rooms to which they are assigned or which they have selected through the regular room choosing process. Prior approval from the Dean’s Office is required of any student making a room change. Students who switch rooms without the consent of the assistant director for residential communities will be penalized $100 and will not be permitted to participate in the next housing lottery.

Room Cancellations

If a student reserves a room through the housing lottery or waitlist system and cancels their housing contract, a fine between $100-$500 is assessed to the student’s account. Fines are generally assigned as follow:

For fall semester: If a student selects a room in the lottery and chooses to live off-campus, but is still enrolled, the student will be assessed
a. $100 fine per person to cancel their housing contract, before June 1. 
b. $500 fine per person to cancel their housing contract between June 1, and week of eight (8) of classes.
c. No room refund will be given when notice is given after week eight (8) of classes.
For fall semester: If a student selects a room in the lottery and takes a leave of absence, the student will be assessed
a. $100 fine per person to cancel their housing contract before August 1.
b. $500 fine per person to cancel their housing contract between Aug. 1, and week eight (8) of classes.
c. No room refund will be given when notice is given after week eight (8) of classes.
For spring semester: if a student selects a room in the December lottery or already has a room from the fall semester and chooses to live off-campus, but is still enrolled, the student will be assessed.
a. $100 fine per person to cancel their housing contract before Dec. 1.
b. $500 fine per person to cancel their housing contract between Dec. 1, and week eight (8) of classes.
c. No room refund will be given when notice is given after week eight (8) of classes.
For spring semester: if a student selects a room in the December lottery or already has a room from the fall semester and takes a leave of absence, the student will be assessed
a. No fine to cancel their housing contract before Dec. 1.
b. $100 fine per person to cancel their housing contract between Dec. 1, and Jan. 5.
c. $500 fine per person to cancel their housing contract between Jan. 5, and week eight (8) of classes.

d. No room refund will be given when notice is given after week eight (8) of classes.

Keys and Locks

The College takes precautions to protect the safety and well-being of students, and expects students’ full participation in this process. Rooms should be locked when unoccupied, even for a brief period of time, to avoid theft of personal property. Exterior entry doors should not be propped open. Public Safety officers, Environmental Services (EVS) staff, maintenance workers and their supervisors, as well as resident assistants (RAs), may have access to master keys for each residence hall. These keys may only be used in the course of fulfilling official job duties.

Key Central. Key Central is located in the Facilities and Services Building. Key Central is generally open weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The office may be contacted by emailing or calling ext. 5397 (KEYS) from a campus phone. From off campus, call 610-690-5748. Keys will only be issued to the person to whom they are assigned.

Lost Keys. Lost keys must be reported immediately. Please notify Public Safety, the resident assistant, and Key Central immediately in writing (by email) about a lost key. There is a minimum charge of $100 for each lost key. If a student loses more than one key, or there is reason to believe that the key may be identifiable, a mandatory room lock change may be required.

Found Keys. Found keys are to be turned in to Public Safety or Key Central immediately. For security reasons, the office will not divulge the identity of a key or its owner to other students.

Room Changes. If a student is changing rooms, they may only have one (1) key in her/his possession at a time. The student is not to trade key(s) with another student. When rooms are changed, Key Central automatically reassigns new key and flags the other key(s) as due. If the key is not returned promptly, the student will be charged $100.

Locks. Only College locks may be used on doors; personal locks will be removed, and the owner will be charged for damages and labor.

Returning Keys. At the end of the year, students should return their keys to Key Central before departing campus. If a student wished to return a key after regular business hours, the key may be placed in the 24-hour key drop located directly at the top of the loading dock stairs of the Facilities and Services Building. If the student wishes to receive a key-return receipt, she/he may get one during business hours at the Key Central window. Keys must be returned to Key Central by Jan. 1 (fall term rooms) or June 5 (spring term rooms) for the student to get credit for the key’s return and avoid the $100 fine.

Should the student elect to take a leave of absence, cancel their housing contract, or depart from the College earlier than originally scheduled, all College keys immediately become due and must be surrendered before leaving campus.


In all non-single rooms, if one or more assigned residents cancel their housing contract, the Office of Student Engagement has the right to fill the empty space or to move the remaining roommate(s) to another comparable space. This will be done in consultation with the remaining occupant(s)

Care of College Property

College-provided furniture in residence hall rooms may not be removed or dismantled. Public-area furnishings are intended for general use and are not to be taken into private rooms. Students who violate these rules will be fined and referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Students who do not comply with the directive to restore furniture and equipment to its rightful place will be assessed additional penalties for continued noncompliance. Serious or repeated violations could also subject the student to suspension of her/his right to reside in College residence halls.

Personal beds—including water beds and mattresses— may not be added to the room unless specific permission is obtained before the student’s arrival date from the assistant director for residential communities. For safety reasons, construction of lofts or walls in rooms is not permitted.

Rooms must be returned to their pre-occupancy condition upon move-out. Rooms will be examined subsequent to each student’s departure, and a fine will be levied in the event that special cleaning beyond common procedures is required, or for the removal of College property from the room. Fines are also levied if the staff must move furniture in or out of the room. Similar charges will accrue if students leave belongings in common spaces that must be removed by facilities management personnel. Typically, those charges begin at $100 per resident and increase when extra cleaning of rooms is necessary. Room walls, floors, doors, and furniture may not be painted.

A complete listing of fines and fees may be found on the Office of Student Engagement website.

Prohibited Items

Fire regulations prohibit: personal cooking appliances (hot plates, toaster ovens, or other items with open-heat elements); space heaters; candles, incense, and other open-flame items; and halogen lamps.

Any student with an open flame (e.g., candle, incense, etc.) will be subject to a $500 fine and referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

The cooking facilities in residence halls are designed only for occasional snack use and not for regular meal preparation. Students are not permitted to cook in dormitory rooms or bring microwaves. Students may bring small refrigerators for their dorm rooms, but they must meet all College specifications (Energy Star rated and no larger than 24” x 18” x 18”). Wastebaskets must be metal. Extreme care must be taken with irons, clothes steamers, curling irons, and other personal-care devices. Electrical items using excessive wattage (e.g., air conditioning units) are prohibited. Extension cords must be Underwriter’s Lab approved; outlet strips must have a built-in circuit breaker. No gas-powered vehicles are permitted in the buildings.

Pets of any kind are NOT allowed in residence halls. Fines will be levied against anyone found with a pet in the residence hall, and the pet(s) will be removed from College premises. A repeat offense will cause the student with the pet to forfeit her/his right to reside within College housing. Nothing in this pet policy shall be construed to limit access to housing for a student with a disability.

Quiet Hours

Quiet hours are established by hall residents at the beginning of each term. Should there be a conflict between roommates about sleeping, socializing, and studying schedules, the students’ sleeping schedules will generally take precedence over other room uses. It is understood that an occasional late-night study session may need to take place in a residence hall room. If a regular pattern of late-night studying develops and the roommate needs to get a regular amount of sleep, the studier will be asked to relocate to a more appropriate location (library, classroom, or residence hall lounge).


Primarily, residence hall rooms are designed for sleeping and studying on the part of the occupants. Guests of Swarthmore students are welcome to visit campus.  Guests are defined as traditional college-aged students, family, non-Swarthmore friends, and prospective students. Individuals or groups contracted to perform specific functions at
the College (e.g., performers, speakers, etc.) are not permitted to stay overnight in the residence halls. If a guest of a student will be staying in a residence hall overnight, the resident assistant (RA) must be notified, and all roommates must agree to any overnight stay.

A guest is not permitted to stay in a residence hall more than a total of four nights each term. A guest is never permitted to sleep or reside in any public location (such as a dorm lounge, basement, or other public space). Requests for exceptions must be made to the Assistant Director for Residential Communities. 

Student hosts are responsible for the conduct of their guests on campus and will be held accountable for any violation of the code of conduct or other rules of the College committed by a guest.

The Dean’s Office reserves the right to require a guest to immediately leave campus if their behavior begins to have an impact on the campus community or is otherwise disruptive.

Before inviting a guest into the room, the student must secure the permission of all roommates. If the roommate does not give permission, the inviter may not have the guest in the room. Usually, roommates can agree about the presence and timing of guests. If no agreement can be reached, the basic principle is that the room is for study and sleeping by the assigned occupants.


The College is phasing out dorm storage. Beginning the Fall of 2015, no dorm storage will be available for student belongings.

Until the end of summer 2015, limited storage areas are provided in most residence halls; dorm storage rooms may reach capacity and be closed to students on a case-by-case basis. Insurance is not provided on items stored in dorm storage, and students store their belongings at their own risk. Students are not allowed to store any furniture or large items in these locations.

Until the end of summer 2015, a limited amount of ‘secure storage’ in Old Tarble is maintained by Public Safety and available to students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Secure storage may be accessed on scheduled days and times at the beginning and end of each semester. Each student may store up to three items, though space limitations prohibit the storage of furniture, bicycles, musical instruments, rugs, mattresses, fridges, or other large items.

The insurance program for the College is designed to provide protection for College property and does not include the property of students or others. Students and their parents are strongly urged to review their insurance program in order to be sure that coverage is extended to include personal effects while at college. The College assumes no responsibility for stored items; students store items at their own risk.

There is no access to these storage areas during winter and summer breaks. Dorm and Secure storage options will be available to students through the summer of 2015. After items are retrieved in fall 2015, this resource will no longer be available.

Furniture (rugs, chairs, sofas, tables, etc.), food items, and other large items may not be stored on College property. Limited storage space and fire regulations prohibit storage of such items. Violation of storage policies will result in removal of prohibited items and an accompanying charge. Musical instruments and refrigerators are not allowed in secured storage.

Periodically, all storage rooms will be cleaned and inappropriate items removed. Graduating students may not leave items in storage after Commencement. Any items found in storage rooms that are out-of-date or labeled inappropriately will be considered “abandoned” and disposed of accordingly. The College reserves the right to dispose of any items in storage locations, without notice, if the storage rooms become a health or safety concern.

There are many locations off campus that offer students summer- and winter- break storage options. Students must work with these companies individually as they are not managed by the College.

Board Requirement

All students living in campus housing must participate in one of the College’s three meal plans, with the exception of students living in the Strath Haven Condominiums. Students living in Strath Haven may decline the meal plan, select a partial meal plan, or subscribe to the full meal plan. The selection of a meal plan option is done through Dining Services (Sharples Dining Hall).

Cable and Internet

Cable access is provided to one TV set per building. Splicing into the line or installing a satellite dish is a violation of College policy. Wireless network access is provided in all residence halls. The use of personal wireless access points is prohibited as they may interfere with the College-provided service.

Summer Housing

The College, as a service for faculty and their student researchers, provides limited summer housing. First housing priority is assigned to students conducting research with faculty members. Second housing priority is assigned to students working in College offices and international students not returning home during the summer. Details, availability, cost, application, etc., are publicized after spring break by the Office of Student Engagement. There is a limited meal plan available during the summer. No access to the College’s health or psychological services is available over the summer. There is limited access to the library, information technology services, and athletic facilities.

Off-Campus Housing

In keeping with Swarthmore’s philosophy that residence hall life supports the College’s academic mission, most students (approximately 96 percent) live in the residence halls. However, it is recognized that some students may prefer to live off-campus, and, with the exception of new students, they are generally allowed to do so. Students wishing to live in non-College housing must submit an ‘Intent to Live Off-Campus’ form each semester, and provide a local address and cellular telephone number.

Off-campus students may subscribe to the full meal plan or select a partial meal plan. Debit cards for use at the Dining Hall, Kohlberg coffee bar, Science Center coffee bar, and the Tarble snack bar may also be purchased by off-campus students. Contact Dining Services for additional information.