Firelands Elevators Threatened
In a poorly attended all-dorm meeting yesterday evening, Firelands residents, frustrated with a Residential Education imposed deadline set to expire today, weighed possible responses in order to keep their elevators open.
ResEd claims that between $5000 and $8000 in vandalism-related repairs have been completed in the elevators since September. Either the residents are to find a way to prevent vandalism on the building’s two elevators or finish the semester with the elevators shut off.
However, at the dorm meeting last night, Firelands students expressed concerns with how ResEd has handled the vandalism situation, with some residents calling ResEd’s actions disrespectful and unfair. Residents also crafted a resolution that both acknowledged the graffiti’s violation of ResEd policy and called upon ResEd to be more proactive about vandalism and upkeep in the future.
Much of the controversy began last Friday, when Resident Director of Village and Co-op Housing Nicki Smith wrote an e-mail to Firelands residents informing them that the elevators were being shut down for the semester.
“Throughout the fall semester, both elevators in Firelands were continually vandalized. Not only is this a violation of College policy, but it also creates an unwelcoming and sometimes disturbing atmosphere for students, staff, parents and other visitors to the Firelands community,” Smith said in the e-mail.
She went on to outline the College’s attempts to remove the graffiti by repainting the elevators, and, most recently, by installing carpeting on the walls.
Because vandalism continued in spite of repairs, Smith said, administrators had decided to turn the elevators off for the remainder of the semester. She also indicated that ResEd planned to bill all residents for the costs of repairs.
After hearing complaints from students, administrators decided to turn the elevators back on at least until today.
However, students at last night’s meeting remained unhappy with ResEd’s actions. Some students expressed anger with how ResEd has treated Firelands residents.
“I have a large problem with them asking us to single out [individual perpetrators]...It’s like they’re trying to divide us at the same time that we’re trying to work together,” said Katherine Knowles, College junior.
Students complained specifically about a lack of communication between ResEd and the residents and said that ResEd allowed the graffiti to go on for months without complaint.
While waiting for an elevator prior to the meeting, double degree junior Emily Knisely said, “Nobody really knew that they had a problem with the graffiti...they didn’t do anything about it for so long — for years people have been writing.”
Many residents in attendance at the Thursday meeting expressed frustration with ResEd’s position that the residents be held collectively responsible for the vandalism, since many felt that there is little community in the building.
“They have held us responsible as a community without giving us a mechanism to act as a community,” said College junior Saul Flores, one of the organizers of Thursday’s meeting.
The condition of the elevator was a final area of concern, as many students suggested that broken ventilation system and lights in the elevator showed ResEd as unwilling to take responsibility for the elevators. Residents also cited problems elsewhere in the building as evidence of the College’s refusal to take responsibility for the upkeep of the building (including vomit allowed to sit in the stairwell for months before being cleaned by Facilities Services).
Director of Residential Education Molly Tyson defended the College’s actions. According to Tyson, ResEd’s action came after students wrote on carpeting on the elevators’ walls, which had been installed to cover up vandalism. She said that because of the new damages, repair costs were significant and administrators felt that they needed to take additional measures to stop the vandalism.
“We don’t make these decisions until the damage has exceeded a point that we consider excessive,” Tyson said. “When it hits, like in Firelands...about $100 per person, we’re getting to the point where administratively we need to recoup some of those costs.”
Associate Director of Residential Education and Facilities Keith Watkins told the Review that the carpeting is estimated to have cost $3,000 to install.
By the end of Thursday’s meeting, Firelands residents crafted a resolution to acknowledge the graffiti, adhere to the proposals and create a central body through which residents could act collectively, and to increase opportunities of community in the building.
Students will present the results of yesterday’s meeting to administrators in a meeting to be held today. ResEd said that it will decide on a course of action after this meeting takes place.