Residents of High Rise were notified on Oct. 3 that they will be charged $60 per person to replace a stolen television and to paint over spray-painted graffiti if no one confesses to these crimes. The notification e-mail, sent by Area Coordinator Brian Nangle to the Williams Street e-mailing group (i.e. residents of High Rise and Low Rise), sparked numerous discontent student e-mails back to the e-mailing group.
According to Maureen Isleib, associate director of Residential Life, the 37-inch flat screen Samsung television, which was stolen from the High Rise lounge during Labor Day weekend, will cost $1200 to replace. Additionally, spray-painted graffiti was discovered throughout the nine floors of a staircase in High Rise on Sept. 17. While obscene words were initially painted over, additional graffiti was discovered on Sept. 22 and Oct. 6.
The cost to repaint the entire stairway was originally estimated at $8500, Isleib said, though Physical Plant is attempting to minimize the cost by only painting over areas in which graffiti is present. Associate Director of Facilities Management Jeff Miller explained that the actual cost should end up being considerably less.
Additionally, Isleib stressed that, in sharing the charge among the residents, the administration is simply following University policy for common area violations.
“If we can’t identify the responsible parties, then the community is held responsible,” she said.
This policy is explicitly written in the Housing Contract that students sign at the beginning of each school year.
“If the guidelines that are violated occur in a common building or unit area and a specific individual or individuals who are responsible for the violation cannot be identified, the residents of the entire unit or building will be charged for the fine,” the Contract reads. The Contract makes no distinction between whether the responsible party is a student or non-student.
In response to the numerous e-mailed student complaints about the fine, Isleib and Nangle held an informal meeting with milk and cookies in the High Rise lounge on Wednesday evening to answer questions and student concerns. While student response over e-mail had been extensive, only three students showed up to the milk and cookies session.
Student complaints about the fine were numerous and varied. Some residents criticized the fact that the television was mounted to the wall in the High Rise lounge but stolen before Physical Plant had determined the best way to lock it.
“The television should have been secured better,” said Elynna Klink ’10, one of the three High Rise residents who attended Wednesday night’s milk and cookies meeting.
Others students argued that the costs of damages should be split among Low Rise residents as well as High Rise residents, since both have card access to High Rise.
“I think that it’s kind of ridiculous that only people from High Rise are being charged,” said High Rise resident Evan Perkoski ’10.
Another resident of High Rise, Josh Egendorf ’10, also noted that anyone could get into High Rise by simply waiting outside the door until someone goes in or out.
One common complaint raised by students was that charging each of the 177 High Rise residents $60 seemed exorbitant and would result in the University acquiring more money than could be needed to fix the damages. Isleib emphasized, however, that the charge is solely to pay for the replacement cost of the television and for the repainting of the stairway, not as a punitive measure or penalty.
According to an e-mail to the High Rise e-mail chain from Nangle and Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting, the student charge was a last resort.
“We resorted to replacing [the television] through common area damages only after we exhausted all other methods of trying to locate the culprit,” the e-mail said. “Public Safety reviewed four days worth of security camera videotapes (from the time the TV was last seen), and each room was checked during recent inspections.”
Residents expressed frustration about the situation in general, whether or not they found the charge to be unreasonable.
“I’m really irritated that someone would do this and that no one has confessed,” Klink said.
Eric Boon ’10 and Micah Siegel-Wallace ’10, both residents of High Rise, expressed uncertainty about whether it is even worth the cost to replace the television and repaint the stairway. Boon described the stairway walls as unfinished concrete that did not look good before and suggested that the graffiti at least adds something. He suggested that maybe a student-run mural could replace professional painting as a much cheaper solution.
Isleib disagreed with the suggestion that perhaps the graffiti should just be left as is.
“Why should anyone be subjected to nonsensical and obscene graffiti in the stairwell?” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus, also noting that staff use the stairway as well as students.
While the situation is frustrating for all involved, Isleib hopes that some good will come out of student frustration with the charge.
“Hopefully, students will be angry enough [about the charge to their accounts] that they will help in identifying those responsible,” Isleib said.