Stop residence hall damage

by Tyler Newby | 7/22/94 5:00am

As any resident of the Gold Coast cluster knows, there has been a disturbing level of dorm damage only four weeks into this term. Here are just a few of the things that have happened so far: the kitchen has been egged, windows have been broken, and human feces has been left on the floor and toilet in a Gile Hall men's bathroom. As all students certainly know by now, the cost of repairing dorm damage is spread out over the entire hall, and added to each student's bill at the end of the term. This system is neither fair in its method of punishment, nor is it an adequate way of preventing further damage.

Deterring abuse to any type of communal area is difficult, since the individual culprit knows that he will not have do deal with the full consequences of his actions. This "tragedy of the commons" unfortunately occurs frequently in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other shared areas. The College's current system of spreading the costs encourages this negligent disregard for shared property. Generally, in a communal situation, a group of people collectively chooses an action, knowing that it will collectively deal with the consequences of that action. However, using that definition, dorms are far from being communal. Students living in residence halls do not act collectively; they act as individuals. Therefore, it is unjust that other residents of a dorm who may have done absolutely nothing wrong must share those costs.

The only just way to deal with dorm damage is to catch and charge the individual culprit. That way, instead of knowing that others will help him pay for his actions, he will be required to pay them entirely by himself. However, this method of deterrence is impossible, without creating a "big brother" atmosphere where video cameras monitor our every action. It is important that the College encourages witnesses to turn in individuals how have created the damage, but there will still be many cases where the culprit is not seen.

Looking at this problem realistically, therefore, the College must find a way to pay for residence hall damage, while spreading the costs to the innocent as little as possible. Also, one must consider that a large percentage of the damage is probably done by students who do not live in the damaged dorm. Spreading the cost throughout a dorm for this type of damage is about as equitable as charging any randomly selected dorm. I believe the best solution is to use funds gained from the numerous fines that the College collects to pay for dorm damage. True, this solution does not deter negligent behavior, but neither does the present system. At least in my proposal, the money for repairs will come from someone who did something wrong. Under the present system, most of the repair costs come from people who did absolutely nothing wrong.

The best solution is also the most obvious. Students need to have a greater amount of respect for the dormitories. Eliminating the problem is always the best way to eliminate its symptoms.

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