‘Bizarre’ clean-ups mark Fall damage charges
By Tim Mosso
Published on Monday, January 20, 2003
Punitive measures have not corralled the growing rate of grievous residential hall abuses, as the number of fines incurred for "personal clean-up" offenses have risen despite an overall drop in the cost of repair for residential halls during Fall term.
The combined Fall term repair and clean-up charge for the College's 41 residence hall amounts to $4,361.90. This figure represents a moderate decrease from the $4,608.98 charge that was assessed after Spring term 2002.
The highest bill assessed to an individual residence was the $559 charge to Wheeler Hall. A combination of mitigating circumstances, lack of incidents and per-person charges of less than one dollar resulted in fifteen halls receiving no charges. All damage repair bills are equal to the cost of the repairs, but fire safety violations, which result from missing or non-functional fire extinguishers and exit signs, carry a $100 fine. Personal clean-up violations carry a standard $40 fine.
Despite some students' objections to the costs of certain clean-up procedures -- urine in a shower carries a $40 charge -- the College actually charges $23.61 per hour for custodial cleaning services. This rate compares favorably to local services such as "A Clean Vision," of Hartland, VT, which charges $25 dollars for regular customers. The additional punitive charge for personal clean-ups reflects the College's desire to avoid such situations.
While damage to College property remains the largest category of offense, the second largest and fastest-growing type of offense is the personal clean-up, defined by the Office of Residential Life as any clean-up involving the grossly inappropriate placement of vomit, urine or feces.
"What was bizarre for us two years ago is now commonplace," said Associate Director of Residential Operations Catherine Henault. The Fall term saw as many as three incidents involving feces in showers, and one involving feces on a staircase. In total, 31 personal clean-ups were reported.
Henault emphasized the difference between residual vomit or urine on a toilet seat and a personal clean-up situation, which could involve, "vomit all over the floors and wall."
Although ORL has not identified the cause of the personal clean-up trend, Henault believes that increased effort on the part of Residential Cluster Community Directors may provide a solution. "The basement of Gile had a number of incidents in which a number of messes were left. After the floor meeting, it stopped," said Henault. She adds that, "we reduced the charges because somebody heard and somebody changed."
Community Directors are claiming a role in the reduction of damage charges. The size of damage bills has declined since the deployment of the CDs. "This is the third year that we have had CDs. We manage the clusters and damages falls under that," said Amanda Bingel, River Cluster community director.
"We are making a shift in the damages process," Bingel added. ORL used to bill entire dorm clusters for localized offences, however Henault credits the CDs with the new process of narrowing the scope of fines so that individual dorms, halls, or even individuals are held accountable.
Henault observed that the presence of CDs has helped to hold more individuals accountable for damage to residential areas. "They have helped to bring in as many as 10, but I used to be lucky to get one," she said.
Bingel emphasized she does not want CDs to be seen as police, and noted that "the process is student-friendly." Both administrators reiterated the role CDs can play in reducing fines, keeping records clean or even reversing fines.
"Too many people believe that if you come forward, it will be an entry in your record," said Henault.