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.