Rooney residents billed for vandalism

by Zach Noble, Staff Writer

After a high amount of unsolved vandalism in Rooney Hall last semester, residents of Rooney were informed that they would all be charged for repairs. Emergency lighting was damaged on at least four separate occasions last semester, but the culprits went unidentified each time. Residence Life, following Student Handbook protocol, will assess the cost of repairs to the entire building, residents and prefects alike.

While this came as a surprise to some residents, Director of Residence Life Bob Baum said that this is a common procedure. Baum pointed to page 17 of the Student Handbook, which states, “When a responsible party cannot be identified, any costs may be prorated to the floor, the residence hall or the campus.” Whether or not they know it, all SVC students must abide by the contents of the Student handbook. “As you sign up to be a student here,” said Baum, “you’re accepting the policies cited within [the student handbook].”

Charging a whole residence hall for damage is completely within the bounds of Residence Life jurisdiction, and the practice is not unprecedented.  According to Baum, most residents see a small amount tacked onto their bills at the end of each school year.  “I think last year it was maybe seven dollars per resident in Saint Benedict Hall,” said Baum. “Last year in Bonaventure, it was something miniscule, like two dollars, and I think they decided not to bill it.”

Senior Stephanie Pawlak, however, has no recollection of being billed for residence hall damage in the past. Pawlak has lived in Benedict and Gerard Halls, and currently resides in Rooney. “As far as I’ve known, I’ve never gotten a bill like this before,” said Pawlak. Pawlak expressed frustration at being charged for damage she claims she had nothing to do with. “I can’t control people from breaking lights,” said Pawlak. “If there are no cameras there to keep it from happening, if there are no prefects there to keep it from happening, I can’t keep it from happening. Am I supposed to stand in the hallway and watch the light bulbs?”

Bob Baum didn’t quite endorse the idea of residents standing guard in the hallways, but he did encourage residents to take an active role in preventing vandalism. “For four years, this is your home,” said Baum. “The Benedictines gave us this opportunity to be here and it is their property, and for the most part students respect that, but there’s that one percent who at one time or another don’t respect that.” Baum described Residence Hall safety as a joint venture between students and prefects, but lamented the fact that residents don’t always take interest in stopping campus shenanigans. “I know one of the instances, there was some noise late at night on a Saturday one of the times a light got broken, but nobody walked out to look,” said Baum. “The idea is that when somebody sees something, the prefect has the ability to write a documentation, but anybody at any time has the ability to report anything that’s going on, whether they report it to a prefect or the Residence Life office,” said Baum.

Stephanie Pawlak acknowledged that omnipresent security cameras or other such draconian measures are not the answer, but she remained peeved that she will be billed for the misdeeds of others. “It’s the principle,” said Pawlak. “It’s frustrating to have to pay for something that I absolutely can’t control.”

Baum emphasized the balance between safety and privacy. Complete accountability, if possible at all, could only be achieved by putting security cameras in every hallway, a move that many residents might view as overly intrusive. The current policy has its shortcomings, but once in a while the policy bears fruit. “We’ve had students come forward and say that they’ve done things and they pay for the bill,” said Baum. “That’s our ultimate goal, for people to come forward and say, ‘I don’t want everyone to pay for this.’” Baum admitted that this hasn’t happened often but lauded the character of those who had fessed up to their crimes. Baum also solicited input from the student body, saying, “I’m always happy to hear ideas that people have, and I’m always happy to speak to students who have problems or concerns.”

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