Dorm damage salient, classist issue

Last fall I wrote an article in which I cast Colby dorm damage as a class issue. This year, I’m digging my heels in and reaffirming my stance on this critical problem. Some have blithely dismissed my logic, but it’s important that all students understand the practical consequences and socioeconomic implications of what students do here on weekends.

If you’re new to the College, you’ll probably be doing lots of partying this year; therefore, there are several things you should know. As you would presume, many people turn up on the weekends; it’s our way of forming a community, alleviating stress, and—yes—-addressing sexual frustration! That’s fine and all—believe me, I’ve had a few shameless/shameful experiences in my day—but knowing how to party in a responsible fashion is just as vital as keeping sober before an exam or an athletic event.

When you party too hard, get wasted and lose sight of your inhibitions, obviously a lot of bad stuff can happen. But what I never seem to understand is why students get so drunk to the point of utter belligerence—it is both financially harmful to the student community and unhealthy.

At a prestigious institution like ours, dorm damage should not be an issue. We’re smart enough to understand that public and private property should be respected, we’re old enough to know that excessive drinking is destructive, and we’re privileged enough to enjoy the benefits of clean housing and a hard-working custodial staff. It’s a no-brainer.

Yet, a few of us will inevitably find ways to break walls, pull down exit signs, break into vending machines and clog toilets. Do you know that someone literally ran through a window in Hillside last spring and sliced open his leg? Do you know that someone literally left a pile of shit in the vestibule of the Heights main entrance—placed perfectly, so that it was repeatedly and ruthlessly smeared into the floor by the door? Funny? Undoubtedly! But definitely not fun to clean up. It’s avoidable behavior; custodial staff shouldn’t be relegated to cleaning up shit, and we all shouldn’t be forced to smell it for a week.

On a serious note, the effects of dorm damage have greater consequences for students of lesser means. Because the share of expenses for dorm damage are incurred by all living in the dorm, students who had absolutely nothing to do with vandalism (or the partying) that took place must also bear the financial burden of, say, a broken window, piles of vomit and feces, or a ruined vending machine. These bills add up over the course of nine months, as I know all too well after I spent my spring freshman semester living in Heights. My bill at the end of that semester: $150. Although I enjoyed my time in Heights because of the social scene, my wallet suffered at the cost of what is equivalent to several books for a semester—suffice it to say I was more than indignant about the matter.

Notwithstanding my own experiences with this issue, a viable solution requires honesty. An honest discussion about dorm damage requires the understanding that class (and race, though to a lesser extent) intersect at the heart of this issue. Now, by no means do I claim authority on this issue; my writings on dorm damage stem from my own experience. Thus, I may be resorting a bit to inductive reasoning when you read what I’m about to say next. Nevertheless, I’ll leave it to you to eventually determine the veracity and merits of my subsequent statements. Whenever I’ve seen or heard about specific situations in which students were “breaking shit,” the students involved were invariably upper-middle class and white. I do not mean to imply that all students who fit this profile engage in vandalism at Colby; by no means would I exercise such simplistic, puerile logic. I’d be blaming like three quarters of the student body, which would be factually incorrect, as well as an exercise in stereotyping. Nonetheless, I do give credence to the idea that the small percentages of students who routinely or aberrantly engage in dorm damage do fit that profile. In fact, I’ll bet money on it. Race in this issue is mostly irrelevant here in this argument. For me, it’s mostly about class.

For the many students that can afford it, a dorm damage bill is insignificant because of its relative inexpensiveness. That’s why seniors choose to live in the Alfond Senior Apartments, because the fun and “privacy” they’ll enjoy far outweigh the indubitably high bill they’ll receive at the end of the year. They’ll also come to find that the apartments, by the end of each semester, register the highest dorm damage expenses of any place on campus. Planned parties means expected debauchery.

For those students who live elsewhere, in dorms that also suffer from endless vandalism—such as Dana, Heights and Hillside (and an honorable mention for Roberts since that’s going to be an athlete hub this year and beyond)—the fear of racking up unnecessary bills you’ll struggle to pay off is a natural disincentive. But for the privileged few among us that will revel in their vandalism, there is no such fear about bills, especially when these students don’t even live in the dorm in which they commit dorm damage.

I’ll end this article with a quote from my last piece on the classist implications of vandalism at Colby: “If I can’t pay for my growing dorm-damage bills, how can I feel safe in attending Colby? How can I trust that the people of my community care about my issues as they relate to the burden of paying for bills I didn’t create? Think about it this weekend.”

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