Rates of residence hall vandalism
While residence hall vandalism remains an issue on the Hill, Bowdoin College has reported a much lower level of damage occurring on its campus.
In response to the significant increase in vandalism in the Alfond Apartments, students living in the building recently implemented an escort system. Under the new policy, underclassmen cannot enter or exit the Apartments without a resident accompanying them. This policy, along with the increased presence of security in the building, is aimed at countering the increase in residence hall vandalism there, occurring largely in the form of broken and stolen exit signs, according to Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Jed Wartman.
Wartman finds the direction residence hall vandalism has taken in recent months, namely tampering with safety equipment, especially troubling. When someone breaks open and uses a fire extinguisher or tears down an exit sign, it creates the potential for problems if there is a fire. In these cases, “the safety component is quickly forgotten,” Wartman said.
Though the total fee for residence hall vandalism for this semester cannot yet be calculated, the Apartments have, to date, experienced $11,000 worth of damage. Vandalism in the Apartments, in the Hillside residence halls—which many students visit on their way to different parts of campus—and in Heights Residence Hall—where many large events are held—remains higher than others.
However, according to Bowdoin College’s Associate Director of Residential Education Ben Farrell, there appears to be a different culture surrounding vandalism on the Bowdoin campus. “There’s just not a ton of it,” he said, suggesting that the large number of students living in Bowdoin’s housing system, as opposed to traditional residence halls, might be a factor. Each house at Bowdoin holds a small number of students, has its own catered kitchen and sponsors frequent small house events.
There are a number of larger residence halls at Bowdoin—including one 16-story tower—but housing is divided by class year. The highest volume of damage occurs in the sophomore residence halls, rather than in first-year residence halls or upperclassmen houses.
Residential life has changed significantly at Bowdoin since its trustees voted to eliminate fraternities and sororities in 1997, but this has not resulted in a significant increase in vandalism or dorm damage around campus.
Farrell and Bowdoin’s Office of Campus Life are pleased with the number of students who come forward and take responsibility for any damage they have caused. “This year, more people have taken responsibility than last year. Friends are having conversations about it and keeping each other accountable,” Farrell said.
These conversations may be the most important factor in decreasing the current frequency of vandalism on the Hill. “Dorm damage doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Wartman said. “It happens when we’re with people, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.” Wartman stressed that vandalism doesn’t have to happen, and said it is “fairly easily avoidable if we expect more from each other and our community,” he said, and if we hold each other to these higher expectations.