Residential Council is creating plans for next semester aimed to reduce dorm damage across campus, members of ResCouncil said.
Following the recent renovations of residence halls including the Keeney Quadrangle and Andrews Hall, dorm vandalism has remained prevalent on campus.
Members of ResCouncil have been meeting with Residential Peer Leaders throughout the semester to decide what steps should be taken to reduce dorm vandalism effectively. The Undergraduate Council of Students and the Office of Residential Life are coordinating with ResCouncil members on addressing dorm damages, said Kristina von Gerichten ‘13, ResCouncil policy chair.
ResCouncil will use poster campaigns, Morning Mail and table slips to heighten campus sensitivity to dorm damages, said Director of Residential Experience Natalie Basil, adding that planning stages for the campaign are ongoing.
Basil said ResCouncil decided to initiate the campaign after noticing continued insensitivity toward housing renovations made this past summer. Despite multiple dorm renovations, vandalism continued to occur at pre-renovation levels for newly renovated buildings, sparking ResCouncil concerns that the student body was not respecting the University’s efforts, Basil said.
ResCouncil is especially reaching out to residential peer leaders in Keeney Quad to determine how to build a stronger sense of community and accountability among residents, both RPLs and ResCouncil officials said.
RPLs are holding one-on-one, group and floor meetings with their units in the hope of educating students about dorm vandalism, said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services. Bova emailed Keeney residents last September about the ongoing problem of dorm vandalism and how students could help, said Jordan Shaw ’15, a residential peer leader in Keeney Quad. Shaw said the email was effective in triggering a visible response from members of the Keeney community.
“I think it’s important with community damages to stress community responsibility and accountability and making sure that everybody is watching out for it,” Shaw said. “That’s what Richard Bova’s email did. It threatened to hold people accountable.”
Bova and other members of ResLife attributed Keeney Quad’s disproportionately high rate of damages to the complex’s size and construction.
“It’s hard to own Keeney when you live on a floor and there are 150 other students spread across almost like a tennis court format,” Bova said, noting that Keeney Quad is the only residential structure that features over 600 students living on “highly interconnected floors.”
Students attributed the higher levels of vandalism in Keeney Quad to tradition. A key to reducing dorm damages on campus is changing the culture among students, said Russyan Mabeza ’15, a Keeney Quad RPL. He said upperclassmen pass along the tradition of committing acts of vandalism, such as breaking exit signs, to first-years.
“I think Keeney is just historically allotted as the party dorm on campus for freshmen, and people like to take advantage of Keeney’s reputation,” said Krishan Aghi ’15, an RPL in Perkins Hall.
Aghi added that reducing dorm damages has to come from changing students’ mindsets. “You can’t have this over-arching draconian figure that controls what students do in their dorms,” he said. “It has to be the students who decide what they want to do.”
ResLife and ResCouncil dismissed the feasibility of collectively fining Keeney Quad residents for dorm damages, an option that ResLife has raised in the past. Identified students are held accountable on an individual basis for having committed an act of vandalism against the University and are put through the non-academic judicial system. Bova said the University has no plans to abandon this system.
“Anyone can hand out fines all day long,” Bova said. “We really want to work with the community and students to respect their home.”
Frequently committed acts include graffiti, damage to exit signs and disregard for furniture and living conditions in common areas, Bova said. Graffiti has become less common due to the work of RPLs, but exit sign damage remains widespread, both ResLife and several RPLs said.
Shaw said the University is in the process of installing newly designed exit signs that cannot easily be removed throughout the dormitory complex and will finish removing the old exit signs this summer.
“It is a sad day that when you provide for life-safety equipment to protect a community and to assist them in times of crisis, that anyone would touch that equipment or attempt to destroy it, putting their fellow students at a potential risk,” Bova said. “Students may joke about it being traditional to do that, but it is a really sad reflection that people are not paying attention to their fellow community members’ safety.”
Bova said dorm damages do not correspond to any particular class year but are rather a campus-wide problem, adding that buildings housing more students experience a larger amount of damage. In smaller, closer-knit communities, dorm damages happen less frequently, he said.
Students had mixed opinions on whether the University effectively communicates its policies regarding dorm vandalism.
“I think having a more transparent reporting system may help,” Shaw said. “I have to actually tell my residents that if they see someone breaking an exit sign, that there is a way to report that student online by filling campus complaint forms.”
Donovan Dennis ’16 said he believes the University’s policies are transparent but that the consequences for vandalism are lacking. “I think they may just not be taking enough action,” Dennis said.
ResCouncil members who have been working on developing the dorm preservation plan will brief the entire ResCouncil this month, Basil said.