College May Fine Every Willets Resident for Lounge Damage

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Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On January 22, an unknown rogue unleashed a fire extinguisher on the Willets 1st lounge. After $2500 in damages and costs, the College is looking to make somebody pay. Unless the College receives information about the incident by 5 p.m. on Friday, every Willets resident will be charged over $12.

The ultimatum was issued by the dorm’s Residential Communities Coordinator, or RCC, Shamin Mason. (An RCC is a full-time administrator who supervises RA’s and sometimes patrols dorm hallways.)

“[O]ur next step in this process, given that we have no information, will be moving forward with charging the community […]. I will be giving you all from the time you receive this email, until 5pm on Friday, ” Mason wrote in an email she sent to Willets residents on Wednesday.

Cygnet suggests that 203 students live in Willets, meaning that everyone would be charged around $12.30 to cover physical damage and weekend labor for the cleanup crew. The Student Code of Conduct actually sanctions this solution in its fire safety policy: “If no individuals accept responsibility […] all residents of that residence hall may be subject to fines and charges.”

But the College may not actually go through with the collective punishment. Mason merely wrote that fining everyone is the “next step,” which is short of a direct threat. In an email to The Daily Gazette, Associate Director for Residential Communities Isaiah Thomas appeared to soften the College’s stance.

“One of the options Mason shared in her community email was that if a responsible party did not come forward, there would need to be a way to appropriately address the outstanding costs of the cleanup,” he wrote. “The spirit behind the RCC’s message and approach toward this situation is above all else to identify responsible parties, and help support a community that encourages respect […]. We are still investigating this situation and have not made any final determinations about charges.”

Four Willets residents we reached out to declined to comment. A fifth, Margaret Cohen ’19, a Student Academic Mentor in Willets, was not even at Swarthmore when the incident happened. Now, having to pay strikes her as unfair.

“I think that under any circumstance it’s unfair to punish a large group of people for the unfortunate acts of a few,” Cohen wrote.

Mason’s email, in a sense, seemed to agree.

“While I know that it is easy to hide behind the fact that I am unaware of who caused the damage in the 1st floor lounge, I want to reiterate that the action of one, should never affect the entire group,” she wrote.

Natalie Flores ’19 contributed reporting.

Eduard Saakashvili

Eduard is a film and media studies major from Tbilisi, Georgia. He abandoned The Daily Gazette during sophomore year to focus on his career in club fencing. Big mistake.


    • Good question!

      We had a discussion about this and decided that the inclusion of the cartoon and a few other touches that made it a “goofy” article meant it might be inappropriate to present it as straight news.

      Eduard (the author and also the co-editor-in-chief)

  1. It is very clearly stated in the student handbook that any charge that EVS has to clean that is not within their normal ability becomes a community charge. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    If the college paid for this community charge, it would have to pay for every single time students disrespectfully tarnish our school. A safety net results out of this and there is no incentive to stop this behavior if we know for certain that school is going to pay every single time.

    Why don’t students who were involved in this allegation step forward? It is unrealistic to think that a fire extinguisher being used was a one student. Until then, yes our school should be careful in the way it presents community charges, but it should not bend its own rules and start paying for every single outrageous act of vandalism.

  2. On a Friday night in the fall of 2004, someone emptied a fire extinguisher in the fourth floor hallway and stairwell of Parrish West. That person never came forward, and was never found out. Everyone on 3rd and 4th West ultimately settled the bill for $8 each in May 2005. There were no RCCs at the time, so the RAs extracted the cash from us directly. As far as I can tell from my e-mail archives, the event was not reported in the Daily Gazette at the time.

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