Over the course of fall quarter, students living in the South Mountain residence halls experienced a slew of vandalism incidents. Now, unable to identify the individuals responsible, University Housing is mandating that all dorm residents pay for the cost of repairs.
A total of 42 maintenance requests have been filed this quarter to fix damages that include broken ceiling tiles, window screens, exit signs, microwaves, soap dispensers and doors, according to Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications for University Housing Nona Matthews.
There have been 15 reported damages in Muir Hall, 6 in Santa Lucia, 10 in Sequoia, 5 in Tenaya and 6 in Trinity.
“I was about to go to bed one night because it was around 2 a.m.,” philosophy freshman and Sequoia resident Maxine Walas said. “I heard a boy running around in the hallway and I peek outside to see what is going on. I see this guy jump and smash his head into the ceiling and break the tile and he just ran off. I have never seen this boy again, which means he probably didn’t live in my building.”
The damages have been placing a strain on the custodian staff.
“[Custodian] workloads increase, impacting scheduling and workflow,” Matthews said. “When damage is pervasive, these impacts are compounded. Our custodians are dedicated individuals who take pride in their work. Recurring damage reflects a lack of respect for the community, others who live there and the staff who are dedicated to keeping our communities clean and safe.”
The Coordinators of Student Development (CSDs) and the resident advisors (RAs) for these residence halls have been actively investigating to search for those individuals who are responsible for the vandalism. If they do find the individuals responsible, or if someone comes forward, only those individuals will be charged fees. However, if the individual cannot be found, each resident in the building is charged a repair cost of $5, according to Matthews.
Reported damages are filed to Cal Poly’s Police Department, which considers them acts of vandalism.
“Every time there is damage, we have to report it to Cal Poly Police Department and it is added work for us [resident advisors]. We then report that case number to University Housing,” one Sequoia RA said, who requested to remain anonymous as speaking to the media violates their contracts and they feared retaliation from the university.
According to Matthews, if a student is reported for vandalism, it can result in criminal charges.
Students can report incidents of vandalism if they saw someone causing damage in the residence halls. Residents must let Jonny Moreno, the Coordinator of Student Development for Muir, Sequoia and Tenaya, know if they would like to take responsibility or report someone else by Nov. 30.
“If I knew someone who did any damage to the building I would 100% report them,” Meechan said.
Residents in South Mountain say they are frustrated that they may have to pay for damages they did not cause.
“I’d be pretty upset if I had to pay for the damages,” civil engineering freshman and Sequoia resident Rory Meechan said. “I had nothing to do with it and half of the time I wasn’t even in the building. I feel like I shouldn’t have to bear any responsibility for it.”
Some students said they were concerned by the sheer number of vandalism incidents that occurred in their building.
“I am honestly very shocked that there is this high of a number of cases reported,” Walas said. “I knew that some students would be crazy the first couple weeks of college, but I think this is overboard.”
The acts of vandalism have not only disturbed residents, but have made their residential experiences uncomfortable.
“When people break ceiling tiles, there is debris all over the floor and if people break the microwave I can’t warm up my food,” anthropology freshman and Sequoia resident Anna Vanderford said.
Some say they believe the damage rates have increased because students are returning from the pandemic.
“The number of reported damages is, I think, more than normal,” a Sequoia residence hall RA said. “I think it is because we are coming back from the pandemic and everyone is trying to put themselves out there more after being cooped up and that can lead to more drinking which can lead to damages.”
But one RA said that an end to the vandalism is not in sight.
“I honestly don’t see a solution to this,” a Sequoia residence hall RA said. “I do hope people stop soon, but I don’t see that happening.”