Dormitory damages the responsibility of entire campus

Halloween Weekend is to fall term what Founder’s Day is to Spring: a peak in both substance-related demand on Vassar’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and vandalism of campus property. EMS responded to 11 calls this past Saturday, five of which resulted in hospitalization. These statistics display consistency with the past few years: last Halloweekend there were 12 calls, and 10 the year before last.

Oftentimes with intoxication comes outlandish and alarming stories—this year, among other incidents, five windows in the residence area of Main were destroyed, a pumpkin was thrown inside a residence hall,  and a tree was placed in the Davison MPR. Though every campus disturbance carries with it consequences both to students and facilities, incidents of vandalism also affect the student body directly through the dorm fees residents are expected to pay at year’s end.

Under the current system, Main residents will have to pay for all damages that resulted from this past weekend that are not traced back to specific students. We at The Miscellany News view the means of distributing damage fees as a policy that requires changing. We hope to see a new system which distributes the charges to the entire body of students with card access equally.

In light of recent revelry, it is more apparent than ever that the current structure of dorm damage payments, in which the cost of dorm repairs is disbursed amongst its residents, is unfair. It is the case that every student at Vassar, expect those on leave of absence or abroad, have unlimited card access to all houses at all hours—a privilege rare amongst colleges and universities alike. We feel that it is absurd to charge Main residents exclusively for a window that may have been broken by any member of the campus community, to name one recent example.

Therefore, The Miscellany News advocates that all fees incurred for damage to any dorm be distributed amongst the entirety of that portion of the student body granted card access to the residential houses. This would include town students and residents of the Town Houses (THs), Terrace Apartments (TAs) and South Commons.

Total dorm damages from the last academic year totaled $6,390.69. By virtue of unlimited 24 hour card access, any Vassar student could have caused the various instances of damage; there is no guarantee that damage in any given house was caused by a resident of that house. Yet, Main residents paid $6 and Jewett residents paid $8.50, while Strong, Ferry and Lathrop residents paid no fees. Under the new system of distribution, each student would have paid roughly $2.66, assuming 2400 students were eligible for payment.

We feel this new system would be more equitable because it is fundamentally unfair to have students pay more for dorm damages simply because they live in a house that hosts an all campus event.

Of course, some arguments can be made against this system. One might argue that this position would erode intra-house solidarity, namely that, at present, residents have a strong incentive to create a culture that discourages vandalism. This may be true in a sense: residents of particular houses would no longer bear sole responsibility for protecting their dorm from the actions of the student body. But it is our position that this loss is for a greater benefit, namely campus-wide solidarity; in this way, we feel students will be more likely to create a campus-wide culture against vandalism. Under this system, an instance of vandalism is not just perpetrated against a house, it would be perpetrated against the entire Vassar community. This fact is not readily apparent in the current system and the changes we suggest will emphasis the far reaching effects of vandalism.

Moreover, if the damage fee is truly to pay for damages and not punitive, campus-wide card access seems to indicate full responsibility from all students for all spaces. This position of equity is similar to that taken by the Office of Residential Life, which charges the same room fee for dorm rooms of all differnt sizes, be they a Jewett corner double or a suite in Main. In that sense, we merely advocate for consistency.

Our position can be better understood when contrasted with special cases. In THs, TAs, South Commons, off-campus housing, and individual students’ rooms, damage charges are the responsibility of the residents alone. Students in these housing styles largely  have control over who enters their homes; residents in Davison, for example, have no discretion over who enters their common areas. In some cases, a non-Vassar student could even enter the space without permission, because students routinely open doors for others. Similarly, if a public space is damaged and the culprit is found then that culprit bears responsibility. It is only in cases where anyone in the campus community has access to a space and blame cannot be adequately assigned that communal fees would be utilized.

We believe that students will feel more accountable for their actions when visiting other dorms if there is a communal charge for damages across campus, and therefore respect other people’s living spaces and the custodial and maintenance staff who keep our homes clean and safe. This culture of campus responsibility should, in our view, supercede the understandable desire for house-based community.

Cultivating a culture of responsibility across the student body through a communal charge would encourage students to not only respect their own living spaces, but the living spaces of others as well. In turn, distributing the fees campus wide would lower damage fees per person.  As members of the student body, we at The Miscellany News believe the responsible and respectful action is for every student to bear the burden affecting every student.

 

—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.

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