Gillson Hall residents were annoyed and confused this past weekend when they received an email from Gillson’s hall director, Francisco Grajales, informing them that an incident of arson had occurred in their hall and that all of them were going to shoulder the price of damages if the student or students responsible didn’t come forward.
According to Grajales’ and students’ accounts, the incident took place just after 9 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1, when the elevator door opened to reveal that a poster inside had been set on fire. An RA quickly beat the flame out with her shoe.
Other acts of vandalism, including graffiti, have been taking place in dorms, such as in Hayes Healy, where, according to fifth floor residents, the wall was bashed in by a student possibly having kicked it or thrown something at it. The wing’s RA allegedly put up a sign threatening to have students pay damages if no student claimed responsibility. A fifth-floor Hayes Healy resident who wished to remain anonymous expressed indignation at the idea of the entire wing having to pay for a few students’ misbehavior, particularly when forced to by the RA. “They don’t have the authority to do that,” he said. So far the holes in the Hayes walls have been repaired, the sign has been taken down, and little has come of this warning.
No student has taken the blame for the arson in Gillson, either, and so the $250 fine, which Grajales described as “paltry in comparison to the severity of the violation,” was distributed evenly among the 389 Gillson residents, amounting to a fine of $0.64 per student.
“I don’t mind paying 64 cents,” said freshman and Gillson resident Danica Swenson, physics major. “But on principle I still think it’s dumb.”
Grajales countered by referencing an incident at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, in 2000, which, he said, “started similarly but ended very differently.” According to a USA Today article, two students at Seton Hall set fire to a banner after their university’s team won a game–an action that led to three students’ deaths due to asphyxiation by smoke.
Grajales suggested that while nothing came of the arson in the Gillson elevator, such pranks could have far worse consequences. “Please be aware that this is a serious violation that could have resulted in significantly more damage to property and persons,” he warned residents in his e-mail.
For now, said Grajales, RAs will deal with the situation by addressing it at their monthly floor meetings with residents. “I imagine that the person(s) who did this probably had no malicious intent beyond the usual juvenile thrill of petty destruction,” he said, “but hopefully through discussion with RAs and perhaps other residents, they will realize the potential damage that their actions could have caused.”