Several students evicted for accessing Heights roof

Following multiple warnings from both the Administration and Campus Security, several Heights residents were evicted from their rooms before fall break for repeatedly accessing the dorm’s roof. According to one of the evicted students, who asked to remain anonymous, at least six students were forced to move from the building to either another dorm or to off-campus housing.

Senior Associate Dean of Students Jed Wartman, who is one of many administrators monitoring the roof issue, described in an interview that, in his six years at the College, the “administration has come from a perspective of concern” in regards to the roof. Wartman also noted that despite the Administration’s past attempts to curb access to the roof, the usage of that space has remained a part of a “long tradition” related to socializing and partying  on the Hill. As part of this “tradition,” students who live in rooms with windows that open up onto the building’s roof have often allowed their rooms to serve as access points for their peers who wish to socialize on the roof—something that, from the Administration’s perspective, could put students at great risk for injury.

According to Wartman, in past years, administrators and security officers have had a more relaxed approach towards the problem, rarely going further than reminding students that roof access is against the rules or adding additional stops to the windows. After realizing that many students on campus were ignoring the reminders and removing window stops, the administration “decided to get more proactive,” Wartman said.

The changes began last year when all students with roof access were convened and “[dorm] reassignment language” began to appear in warnings about violating the College’s policies, Wartman said.

The anonymous Heights resident, who was evicted along with the three other members of his quad, also noted a change in the Administration’s response to students on the roof: “Security was pretty relaxed for a while, but after they [uncharacteristically] shut down a night-party on the roof, we knew we would be hearing from them on Monday.”

Confirming the student’s suspicion, the Office of Campus Life sent an email to all students on September 22, noting that while they “are optimistic that Colby students will respond proactively” to the rules, “due to the dangers associated with this issue, Campus Security will be increasing their presence in areas where people have been known to gather on roofs.” Campus Life added that “students found responsible for allowing roof access through their rooms, and students who access roof areas may experience consequences including room relocation or removal from campus housing.”

Emails were also sent specifically to students whose rooms had roof access and to all Heights residents.

Despite the consequences outlined in the emails from Campus Life, the anonymous resident said that the messages “did not dissuade us at the time.”   

As part of their increased monitoring of the situation, security officers began to look at floor plans of Heights to identify the specific rooms that were allowing students to enter the roof area—something that has been an obstacle in the past according to Wartman. When officers were able to identify the rooms and noticed that specific residents continued to break the rules, they reported the students to the Dean of Students’ Office.

The anonymous resident said that after he and his roommates were identified, they were given one day’s notice to move out of their room and into vacant rooms across campus. Following a private meeting with Wartman, they were granted one week to vacate their quad.

According to Wartman, the College plans to treat the issue of residents who allow roof access as a housing problem and reassign them to a different dorm, whereas non-residents who access the roof will receive a student misconduct letter in their school file.

Director of Security Peter Chenevert confirmed in an email correspondence that the Administration’s concerns are not unwarranted, saying “there have been some injuries from students falling off the roof and a lot of damages to the roof and roof vents” in the past. While allowing other students to access the roof through their room was innately risky, the anonymous resident said that he and his roommates tried to practice some caution by “spotting” other students “looking out for kids who were in trouble or who were precariously close to the edge.”

While many members of the community who have socialized on the roof in the past without any repercussion  view the Administration’s response as a “crackdown,” the anonymous resident said that he “understands that [the College] needs to set a precedent” in order to discourage students from accessing the roof. “Unfortunately,” the student said, “we will be the precedent.”

Wartman said that “this response is not a result of one specific incident, but rather it has been building over time. Students have typically not been conscious of a series of unsuccessful attempts at keeping them off the roof…which is why the eviction seems like a crackdown.” 

In the future, Chenevert said that security “will continue to monitor the area and turn violators over to the Dean’s Office.” Wartman said that Campus Life hopes to facilitate community conversations about alternative outdoor spaces that the College can provide for students to socialize in.

While the anonymous resident agreed that the Administration’s response was “fair” given their numerous warnings, when asked what he thinks will happen to the space in the future, he declared: “long live Heights roof.”

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