Left with a number of unclaimed items that were confiscated over the course of last year’s controversial student dorm sweeps, the University Office of Fire Safety held an internal “confiscated items free give-a-way” to all Physical Plant employees last Wednesday.
According to the memo for the event, which the Argus received from an unidentified Physical Plant employee, the confiscated items included “coffee pots, hot water pots, toaster ovens, grills, candles, crock pots, etc.”
“First Come First Serve!!!!!!!!” the memo read.
It was a low-key event, said Barbara Spalding, associate director of the Office of Fire Safety, a department within Physical Plant.
“We were getting rid of old stuff and giving it to Physical Plant employees,” she said. “There was no money made from this. Three people showed up and took candles.”
Spalding said that while she had contacted students about retrieving their items many times, only a third of students who indicated interest in retrieving their belongings actually did so.
The Fire Safety office is located on 170 Long Lane Rd. across from Long Lane Farm, but at least half of the time, Spalding said, she visited students’ dorms to return the confiscated belongings that they wanted back.
“[The give-away] was a good idea, rather than throwing all of it away,” she said. “I still have a whole bunch of stuff in my room from last year. Maybe a third of students who contacted us because they had to have their very important, personal belongings—only a third came to get them.”
Last year, Fire Safety aroused controversy by doubling fines to $100 per violation, which in many cases included fines for incense sticks, tapestries, and candles. As of February 2007, the department had collected $40,700 in fines from students, a higher number than usual.
Max Horwich ’08, who publicly denounced Fire Safety when they confiscated his lamp last year, said that the free give-away is odd, but characteristic.
“It’s ridiculous but not altogether surprising,” he said. “It’s one of these sort of questionable under the table dealings that seems to be the way Physical Plant operates.”
Arielle Golden ’10 didn’t find much wrong at all with the idea of a give-away.
“I’d rather have them do this than throw it away,” she said.
Spalding said that Fire Safety also gave some of the items to three needy families.
“Over the summer, we gave appliances to the families whose houses burned in Portland, [Conn.,] along with recycled dorm furniture,” she said.
Spalding said that confiscated cooking items are now being placed in student kitchens.
“At the beginning of the semester, we put confiscated George Foreman grills, toaster ovens and toasters in the kitchens at WestCo, Nic 5.5, Hewitt 8, and Clark,” she said. “A toaster also went to the kitchen at 344 Washington.”
The confiscated grills and cooking appliances are allowed in dorm kitchens, but not in student dorm rooms, Spalding said.
“In the student kitchens, students have always been able to cook things, but in their dorm rooms they are not allowed to,” she said. “If every student who had come to campus with a George Foreman grill had put them in the student kitchen, we would not have confiscated them.”