These words, scrawled above a door, greeted the residents of lodge three when they walked into their basement. It wasn’t the only offensive phrase written in the lodge’s lower level. The graffiti included a comment, “Mia survived,” that seems to be about sexual assault victim Mia Ferguson ‘15, who complained last spring to the federal Department of Education about the school’s handling of sexual misconduct.
One of the lodge’s previous residents is currently suspended pending the resolution of sexual assault charges.
According to Daniel Eisler ’15, who lived in lodge four last year, from what he could tell, the graffiti was at least a year old.
“Last year I was in lodge three basement multiple times from the very beginning of the year,” Eisler said. “I didn’t notice any change in the graffiti on the basement.”
But Eisler, who added that last year’s residents were also perturbed by the writings, said that from what he recalled, the graffiti said “sex dungeon,” not “rape dungeon.”
This year, when a lodge resident mentioned the graffiti to friends, a resident assistant (RA) that overheard the conversation reported the story to the assistant dean of residential life, Racheal Head.
The RA informed the resident that she would tell Head about the instance of graffiti. What happened next, however, was a surprise to the lodge residents.
“My roommate Joe and I were just sitting in the triple and we heard voices [coming] from the basement,” said Kai Richter ’16, a lodge three resident.
After the voices stopped, the residents went down to see what happened. “When we went down,” Richter said, “the doors were locked.”
Head explained that after receiving the complaint, school staff locked and subsequently sealed off the basement. “We went to check out the space, found the graffiti, and put in a work order to have that location secured,” Head said.
But according to the students in lodge three, it wasn’t until after the college had inspected and locked their basements that the school formally notified them that the basement had been sealed off. And even then, it was only the lodge’s two female residents who were informed.
“Nehmat and I got an email yesterday from Rachel that was only to us, to women in the lodge,” said Catricia Morris ’16, another lodge three resident.
“I am so sorry that you all had to deal with seeing this space,” Head wrote in the message. “The person making the report did not provide your names but, rather, just reported that some of the residents of lodge three had been impacted. I write to you all not knowing who may have seen this space but to assure you that we will resolve this ASAP.”
Head explained that her decision to email the female residents was partially based on the fact that she had heard that the student who reported the graffiti was a woman.
“I emailed the individuals who we believed may have made the complaint,” she said, adding that she wanted to make sure the residents were okay. “We contacted some of the residents because we wanted to make sure we offered them any support necessary, and to assure them that their report was heard.”
She added that the school did not think it was necessary to contact the lodge residents, given that the lodge basements were all connected to Bond Hall and accessible without going through residential rooms. “We would not have necessarily notified the residents ahead of time because we were not going into their dorm or residential space,” Head said, adding that it was common for the school to send staff to inspect college spaces subject to complaints.
“This was really not any different than us accessing a basement or storage space,” she said.
It wasn’t just the lodge three basement that was sealed.
“While we were downstairs, we found a few other rooms that were open, and we locked theI again,” said Head. “We have decided to continue to limit access to the basements, as they are not considered residential space. The space is not ideal due to flooding issues and fire safety.”
But some, like Eisler, disagree with the decision.
“I didn’t notice anything that was unsafe,” Eisler, who disagrees that the lodge basements should be sealed off. “We had a hurricane come through, and the lodges didn’t flood.”
Current residents of lodge three said that their basement also did not flood on September 2nd, when many other building basements, including the Parrish and Mary Lyons basement, did flood.
Head, however, said that the basements had experienced flooding in the past, and emphasized that restricting access to the lodge basements is not new policy.
“Several years ago, access to basement of the lodges was restricted, and we transitioned to not having individual kitchens in those spaces,” she said.
She added that this policy shift was made clear on the website.
“We did let students know of the change and have had it in the dorm descriptions since that time,” she said.
But current and former lodge residents say that it could have been made more clear to them.
“I’ve never officially been told by anyone that I wasn’t supposed to go down here,” said Richter.
Eisler agreed, adding that many of the basement appliances, including electrical outlets and the kitchen refrigerator and stove, were still turned on and functioning. At times, he said, it seemed as if the college was aware and accepting of their use of the basement.
“There was a sign placed on the door to the basement at one point that said ‘please place all trash in the hallway for EVS to take out,’” Eisler said, referring to the hallway beneath the first floor and next to the basement room, now sealed off. “So it seemed that EVS was servicing the kitchen in the basement and with this sort of assumption that the basement space would have been used.”
Still, some students were glad to see the college finally take action to seal off the basements.
“It was kind of scary that all the lodges were connected,” said Salman Safir ’16, who lived in lodge three over the summer and described the situation as “very concerning.”
Safir, who also noticed the graffiti, said he wished the college had done more to inspect the lodges prior to his arrival.
“They weren’t proactive about it, which is disappointing,” he said.
Head said she hoped the lessons were more positive.
“What I hope the students take away from this is that, in this case, a student did the right thing,” she said. “They became aware of an area in a building that seemed to have inappropriate graffiti, and it concerned them, so they reported it.”
“The college was able to respond quickly and was able to work on both short term (locking off the rooms for the weekend) and more long term (sealing off the locks) solutions to help control access to this space,” Head said.
But Safir, while glad the school finally responded, was less pleased.
“It would be great if the college would look into the spaces that they’re giving out,” he said. “I think this is a prime example of where the college failed to take the necessary stances and then falls behind.”