Fireside Chats Installment V: Dorm Damage

Beginning on October 30, 2014, the Echo began releasing a monthly installment featuring an interview with President David A. Greene. Each interview covers a particular topic or issue related to the Colby community. Fireside Chats is aimed at keeping the Colby community, both on and off campus, informed about Greene’s ideas for the future of the College, as well as providing a line of communication between Echo readers and the Administration. The editorial staff of the Echo welcomes any topics, issues, or concerns that the Colby community may want Greene to address. To send suggestions, please e-mail Features Editor Nathaniel Rees at nbrees@colby.edu.

Echo: Talk to me a little bit about the issues going on surrounding dorm damage and fire alarms. Why are both of these issues increasing this year? How do you/the Administration plan on fixing it?

President Greene: I have real concerns when I see vandalism on campus and tampering with safety equipment.  There is simply no excuse for this behavior, especially behavior that puts others in danger.  I have asked our staff to track student conduct and risk issues—both academic and social—on a week to week and annual basis, and I receive a report on these issues every Monday. 

Here are the facts when it comes to unclaimed vandalism:  By our most recent numbers, we had about half the unclaimed damages and fines compared to the average we have seen over the last four years.  If we look at alcohol intoxication transports, another important indicator of risky behavior, we have had 11 this year compared to 17 last year at this time and an average of just over 20 for the comparable period during the previous five years.  We have had two academic dishonesty cases, just under the five year average.

One way to view these data is that we are moving in the right direction in terms of students taking responsibility for themselves and their surroundings.  I am encouraged by those trends and grateful to the students who have adopted and take seriously the Colby Affirmation.

Another perspective, and one to which I also subscribe, is that we have serious work in our community to drive these numbers to zero. We have to hold ourselves and one another to higher standards for behavior, and we have to demonstrate higher respect for our community.

When it comes to fire alarms that are pulled for no good reason, I can only say that it suggests a level of immaturity and inconsideration that should concern us all.  Any student who would engage in this behavior is not prepared to live in this community and contribute to the intellectual and social environment that is essential to our work.

E: What about the new policies surrounding key cards and restricted access to dorms on weekend? Students have been expressing strong opinions about this new implementation. How do you plan to respond to these opinions? Is the Administration planning on keeping these new rules in place despite the thoughts of the student body?

PG: I understand and share the frustration that students are expressing about the process used to make this change in policy.  This change should have been vetted thoroughly and alternatives should have been considered.  I am sorry that didn’t happen.  It was a clear mistake on the part of my administration.  We are responsible for communicating broadly about changes and providing opportunities for input.  That is my expectation on all significant changes, and this is a case where the administration came up short.  I have asked the dean’s office to hold off on any changes until we all have a chance to weigh in on them. 

E: After the events of this past weekend, do you still think the key card restrictions are the best way to lower dorm damage and pulled fire alarms?

PG: I have not been involved in the decision up to this point, so I have not seen the data on card access and its connection to pulled fire alarms.  I would want to understand it much more thoroughly before offering an opinion on it, and I expect to delve into these issues in more detail. 

E: Do you think that the key card restrictions solve the root of the problem or just “put a band-aid on it”?

PG: Like most of the behavioral issues we are discussing today, the most important thing we can do is to develop and promulgate a shared sense of our community values and our expectations for living and learning together.  SGA has been promoting the importance of respect, integrity and community this year.  They have it 100 percent right in my view.