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CHAPEL HILL, Sep 15, 2010 (The News & Observer – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — UNC-Chapel Hill has provided more than 300 students with safety rails for their beds this year and ordered 800 more to meet demand.

Hundreds of students have requested the rails after the death of 49-year-old Donna Sykes, who fell from a bunk bed as she slept in her daughter’s dorm room.

UNC-CH housing director Larry Hicks said the university could provide safety rails for all 8,500 beds for about $250,000.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it would require students to use the rails.

“Our eventual game plan is going to be to provide them for every bed,” he said. “The best place to store them is on the beds themselves.” The university typically receives about 30 requests for bunk rails each year. That climbed to nearly 70 after UNC-CH displayed the rails in a dorm showroom. But since Sykes’ fall, requests have shot up 10-fold.

“What we’ve experienced is a paradigm shift,” Hicks said.

It’s unclear how soon UNC-CH will purchase rails for every bed and whether students will use them. Hicks said the focus right now is on providing rails for every student who wants them.

Starting with about 100 rails for the new semester, the university has borrowed 40 from N.C. State University and ordered 1,000 more; most haven’t arrived.

Hicks said officials don’t know exactly how Sykes died, but her fatal fall was enough to make them consider mandating rails for every bed. At the very least, he said, the university will work to make every student aware that rails are available and ensure there are enough for all students who want one.

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