Rampant dorm damage a campus issue

A broken window is one of many damages occurring on campus.

A broken window is one of many damages occurring on campus.

 

This year, Norwich University (NU) has endured an increase in campus vandalism and property damages, according to the university’s chief administrative officer, David Magida.

“Vandalism on campus certainly appears to be increasing,” said Magida, whose role on campus includes overseeing Norwich security, facility operations, and overall campus maintenance.

According to Magida, students were charged $66,109 for the fiscal year of June 2012 through May 2013. However, the numbers could be higher for this fiscal year if the students continue to damage the school properties as they have been doing so far,

The frequent acts of vandalism, Magida says, show disrespect to the student body, staff, faculties and the institution as a whole. “Every dollar and minute that we spend on repairing damages equals time and money that we could spend on improving,” Magida said.

In the Norwich University Student Rules and Regulations “Chapter 4 Section 10 A”, students are held responsible for any damages to the dorm buildings and will be charged for the repairs.

Although the rule is clearly stated and applies to all students regardless of grade level or lifestyle, some students do not comply. According to Magida, most of the student body does not cause damages in dorms or to the university’s property. “(The) vast majority of students respect the institution. It is the few (who do not) who can have a negative effect on other peers.”

As NU’s administration officer, Magida said he expects the students who cause the damage to act better since they attend Norwich because “we expect students to be military leaders and civilian leaders, gentlemen and women.”

In order to address this major issue, Magida expressed the possibility of treating vandalism with more strict responses. “We can increase security and surveillance as well as talk with the commandants,” he said.

According to Magida, it’s the corps members, not civilian students, who cause most of the campus damages. However, the commandants can enforce various measures of discipline for that half of the student body.

“If students are caught when they are vandalizing they will get punished and will be fined,” said Magida, adding that the investigation process will be executed by the commandant staff and the dean of students.

This isn’t the first year that NU has had damage on campus, and neither is this the worst damage the campus has experienced. Throughout the years Magida has observed variety of types of damages that outweigh the damages this year. “I have been working here for a long time and I have seen worse than what has happened so far,” he said.

Despite the apparent insignificance of certain acts of vandalism, each incident adds up to one large burden for the university, and therefore the student body. “It really doesn’t matter how big or small the damages are,” Magida said. “You have no excuse to damage the school property.”

Ryan Sutherland, 21, a senior computer and security assurance major from Palmyra, Penn., takes into account both perspectives from the students and the administration in regards to the vandalism. “I can easily see how an institution like Norwich can stress students,” Sutherland said. “However, (despite how) much you try to justify it, there is no excuse.”

As the regimental commander in charge of the Corps of Cadets, Sutherland receives weekly reports from both Norwich security and the corps’ guard duty. He said that he carries some responsibility for linking the corps and the administration, and that he sees himself “as a facilitator between the corps and Jackman Hall. I receive incident reports and I have observed various levels of damages.”

As for the damage itself, according to Sutherland there have been common reports of white boards being torn down, damage to doors and missing furniture. “I don’t understand why (students) will do it to themselves,” Sutherland said. “We have to pay for it at the end anyways.”

In spite of the vandalism and unmet expectation of respect for the university, Sutherland said that he still believes in the quality of NU students and the university’s mission. “I think we can be better than this. I am a firm believer of Norwich’s education both inside and outside,” he said.

When the student body destroys things on its own campus this can make an undesirable impression about NU for the community at large. “By destroying school property we are creating a negative perception and degrading our own institution,” Sutherland said.

The recent increase in dorm damages this year has not been overlooked by the student leaders. To try and cut down on the damages, Sutherland has implemented a new addition to the corps by instituting a watch focused on security (see “BDO raises concerns” below).

“I will take credit for implementing the Battalion Duty Officer,” Sutherland said. A Battalion Duty Officer (BDO) is comparable to guard duty, except that it requires fewer hours and is focused on individual buildings. “I know it’s not a favorable thing, but until the regiment can prove itself, the BDO will continue,” he said.

One of the most notorious acts of dorm damage this semester occurred in Patterson Hall. Unidentified students broke the front glass of the building’s vending machine in a costly act of vandalism.

Robert Gendron, 21, a criminal justice major from Whitehall, N.Y., remembers that incident because he was one of the two company commanders living in Patterson Hall.

“A vending machine was broken and people took all the candies,” Gendron said.

“If you do damage to the building or to anything, you should know there is someone behind who has to clean it up,” Gendron said of the incident that he called “beyond disrespect.”

He added that, “no one should make the job harder for people who have to clean it up, and it’s your peers who have to pay (for the damage).” Gendron said that if those committing the damage saw the cleanup process, then it’s possible that they might feel guilt for what they have done. “If you broke something and found a janitor standing with his or her mop bucket in front of you, you will feel guilty,” he said.

Gendron says that he is willing to police his own dorm when necessary in order to prevent student damages. “If I see someone breaking stuff I’m not going to hide in my room to avoid a two-minute argument,” he said, adding that those moments of confrontation are good training for student leaders.

“It takes the right person to speak at the right time to correct others,” Gendron said, “but you have to start somewhere.” Gendron said that he feels that students do not police each other as much as they should.

“You might get a negative response if you tell someone not to do something,” he said. “But you should know that you did something right and they are the wrongdoers.”

According to Gendron, his leadership style is based on integrity, not a number of policies. “We don’t need more administrative actions,” he said. “That’s not my leadership style. We need more peer-to-peer policing.”

Even as a rook during his freshman year Gendron remembers students destroying the dorms. “Two students who lived next door threw knives (into) their walls,” he said. “I don’t know why, but they did it so much that it was a disaster.”

Gendron added that the delinquents were screamed at during one of the room inspections for destroying their walls, and that as a repercussion he “paid $75 that semester because of them” in damages.

Although it is not certain why people do it, Gendron said that people are typically drunk when they cause damages. An anonymous student who did not want his name used agreed that most of the damages are caused by the misuse of alcohol.

John, another NU student who has asked to keep his name anonymous, recounts causing dorm damage when he was a sophomore.

“In my sophomore year, I broke my window and threw chairs and took down my wall locker because I was mad,” he said of his contribution to the damages in 2011-2012.

As a senior now, John says he realizes now how disrespectful it was for others to pay for his misbehavior. During the incident, he says that he was heavily under the influence alcohol, which caused him to not think clearly at the time, he said.

According to John, the FACOPS workers quickly changed his broken windows and never asked any other questions.

“I know a lot of people who damage school property and get away with it,” John said, adding that he has noticed an incredible amount of damage in Crawford Hall.

In his experience, John said that Crawford Hall has withstood a significant amount of damage throughout the years. “I think there were four exit signs broken and things were hanging off of the ceilings,” he said. “It’s like that everyday.”

According to John, much of the campus damage is done while students are under the influence of alcohol. “I will say from my experience that most of the damages are done when people are drunk,” he said.

He added he felt the lack of things to do around campus for students often lead to the offenders’ bad behaviors. “We (students) need to steam off in some ways because there is nothing to do at this school,” John said.

Joseph, another NU student who wanted to speak anonymously, agreed with what John said. “We had four exit signs broken and I personally tore down some whiteboards (just for fun),” he said.

Joseph, like John, agrees that much of the campus vandalism is due in part to students drinking. “People get drunk and they just get carried away,” he said. “I think a lot of students at Norwich are angry because they think the school takes their money.”

However, that view is not held by everyone on campus. Tedd Ellis, 20, a math major from Houston, Texas, is a cadet first sergeant in charge of the Headquarters Company, and he is a student who doesn’t include alcohol abuse as a factor in campus vandalism.

“People do stupid things when they are drunk. But that doesn’t justify (their actions),” he said. He added that, “a lot of buildings suffer from damages, such as Patterson with the recent event of their vending machine being broken.”

Ellis said that, “(now that we’ve) started BDO, it should help a little bit to cut down on vandalism.” This would, he says, help to improve the campus’ image and restore its reputation as an upright and respected institution.

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