Image courtesy of The Catholic University of America

By Margaret Adams

The residents of Ryan Hall received a collective fine for damages to the building last semester. After Flather Hall became an all-girls dormitory, Ryan Hall converted to an all-males dorm and the Fall 2022 semester saw vandalism ranging from minor to extreme. 

According to residents, damages to the building included broken and stolen exit signs, broken emergency exit doors, a shattered mirror on the bottom floor bathroom, and residents urinating in the sanitary trash cans in the bathrooms. These damages required expensive repairs and “excessive cleaning.” 

In a Catholic University of America Friends and Family Facebook group, a group administrator claimed that sinks have also been broken, faucets and toilets were removed, stall doors were broken, ceiling tiles pulled down, and rugs were “soiled with various fluids.” These additional damages were not confirmed by other sources.

The email, sent to Ryan residents on Monday, January 9, 2023, explained that the cost of repairs cost over $9,000, and that “[p]er the Damage Charges Policy, this total cost has been divided among the students assigned to Ryan Hall during the Fall 2022 semester.”

Catholic University’s Damage Charges Policy states, “All costs for damages occurring on the floor or building will be shared equally by all students of that floor or building when individual(s) causing the damage cannot be precisely determined by the University.”

“The school employs a third party maintenance service,” said the Facebook message. “The service complained and billed the school for over a hundred hours of extra service replacement parts and disinfecting entire portions of the facility.”

Victor David, Interim Director of Residence Life, explained that precedent has been set and the university’s policy supports this decision. 

“In previous years, as now, the decision has been made to hold a residence hall community responsible when the cost of repairs far exceeds the normal amount of typical wear and tear our buildings experience,” David wrote. 

Freshman psychology major Gabriel Aliaga, a resident of Ryan Hall, commented about the collective fine and how the residents were told. 

“We were told in the first couple of weeks of the second semester,” Aliaga stated. “The email mentioned what the fine is and that since we do not know who caused the damages then everyone has to pay.” 

He also mentioned that since not everyone has contributed to the damages, not everyone should have to help pay the fine. 

“I believe they should have sent out an email saying that if the person doesn’t come forward or if no one brings someone forward then there would be fines for everyone.”

Another option that many students hoped CUA housing would consider is utilizing security camera footage to identify specific residents who participated in damaging the building, rather than assigning a collective fine.

Kirk McLean, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management for Catholic University, spoke about the purpose of security cameras in dormitories and why the option was not exhausted in this case. 

“The primary purposes of the security camera system on campus are to deter crime, enhance the security and safety of individuals, and to assist the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in investigating incidents that have occurred,” McLean wrote. “Generally, and when necessary, an investigative component within DPS physically reviews potentially relevant camera footage by rewinding and scanning through incidents based on locations and timelines.” 

“All DPS investigations are conducted to aid in determining the totality of the circumstances,” he explained. “During [the fall 2022 semester], DPS was not notified or requested to review camera footage regarding damages. Additionally, footage is generally retained for a period of about thirty days.”

That being said, David confirmed that those who could be identified through security camera footage “have already been held accountable through the normal student conduct process.” 

Despite disagreeing with the method, Aliaga does believe that the collective fine will discourage any more severe damages to the building.

The Tower reached out to Residence Assistants, including those living in Ryan Hall, but they declined to comment on the situation.

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