Not too long ago an undergraduate advisor in Mid-Massachusetts hall, where I live, blitzed all residents to inform us that over the weekend, someone had entered the building and destroyed multiple windows, television screens and the vending machine glass. Since the perpetrator was unknown, the blitz said, all the student residents would be fined an equal share of the damages. Given that students are already paying an inflated price for housing at the College, fining innocent bystanders in cases like this one is simply unacceptable. Why should I pay for some drunken fool's rampage?
The practice of fining entire residence halls or floors for the actions of an unknown destructive visitor has gone under the radar for too long. Students living in dorms near the center of campus or in between Food Court and Webster Avenue suffer the most from this preposterous policy. As a resident of Russell Sage last year, a large portion of my modest income went towards damage fines almost every weekend.
While the College must address student-caused damage in facilities in some way, the Office of Residential Life is unjust in fining students who are simply victims of a negative externality. Although it is fair to charge students for damages inside their rooms, areas outside of their rooms are public places that are owned and maintained by the College. Why then should students bear the costs of damages by unknown visitors?
Perhaps there is room for debate in deciding how to divide the College's damage costs inside residential buildings. The fact remains, however, that the College can do more to prevent the act from happening in the first place. It is possible that the College has failed to protect its plants or crack down on violent perpetrators because ORL can so easily dish out fines without much resistance from students. After all, many students do not see their D Pay statements, as they are often paid by parents.
An example of the potential threats lurking in the N.H. mountains is last year's mysterious masturbator. An unknown man was found masturbating in an off-campus apartment room at 3:20 a.m. by an awoken female student. The College's response was a blitz to the community to increase awareness on the matter.
Several students focused only on elements of this blitz that they found comical not putting much thought into the event's implication. This incident points to a potential flaw in the safety system of the College. If this man is easily finding his way into girl's rooms so close to campus, one could only imagine what he might do if he found a way into on-campus dorms with the wrong intentions. While students can do their part in locking their doors at night, the College must take greater responsibility in protecting students as well.
If the College would really like to crack down on damages in public places and prevent strangers from wandering around dorms, it can do a number of things. First, it can restrict access to individual dorms to each building's residents during certain hours, such as during the night. While this could serve as an inconvenience for nonresidents, it would add a much-needed additional level of security to dorms and would prevent outsiders from causing damage inside the plants, thus saving residents unnecessary fines. If restricting access to dorms doesn't solve the problem, the College can always take the big brother approach practiced by some schools across the country and install security cameras. I would hope that Dartmouth students are not threatening enough to warrant the installation of security cameras, but it is certainly an option.
Critics may argue that our school is located in a safe and trustworthy community in the middle of New Hampshire, far from threats that warrant much action. However, students who have witnessed property damage in dorms and unknown visitors can attest to the need for a second layer of safety. Simply restricting entry to Dartmouth cardholders is not enough.
At the end of the day, students should not be penalized for actions they have not committed; fining residents for damages most likely committed by outside perpetrators is an unfair practice. But there is a much larger issue here student safety. Further restricting access to dorms could prevent violent drunken acts and potentially dangerous visitors in residential halls. In the interest of safe residential environments, it is time ORL heighten dorm security.