Resident assistant Emmett Morton had just completed a round in Murphy Hall and came back to the duty office to continue his shift one evening earlier in the semester.
“We were down in the office. We’d only been there maybe 15 minutes when someone came and got us,” Morton said.
The person said to head to the third floor, where Morton lives. When he arrived, he was in disbelief of what he saw.
“They took one of the trash cans that was filled with half-filled beer cans, puke [and] all that and threw it down the hall. That same night in the same area … they ripped down some lights, shattered a bunch of mirrors [and] ripped one of the water fountains off of the wall,” Morton said.
But those are not the only problems Murphy Hall – a place notorious for vandalism – has experienced this semester.
According to the John Carroll University Campus Crime Report, Campus Safety Services reported, at 11:53 p.m. on Nov. 16, the door handle to an outer exit of Murphy had been broken off. Lisa Brown, JCU’s director of residence life, said the crash bar – used to push to get out the door – had been broken off.
“Their removing [of the crash bar] left that door completely un-secure, so it caused a significant security risk for the rest of the building,” Brown said.
Recent acts of vandalism such as these have been a headache for other residents, RAs, maintenance workers and administrators. If the people committing the vandalism are not found, residents could also be feeling the pain in their wallets.
The housing agreement for students living on-campus during this academic year states, “Damages that occur to public areas (e.g. restrooms, lounges, study rooms, etc.) that are not attributable or chargeable to a specific individual or group shall be equally shared by the residents of the living area where those damages occur.”
Brown said the crash bar and hall trashing incidents each cost $1,500.
“Unless we find the individual responsible in that investigation – because it [the investigation] has been recent because of Thanksgiving Break [and] is still very much ongoing – [the cost will] be dispersed through the entirety of Murphy,” she said.
Brown also said all Murphy residents have been notified via email and RAs will discuss it again during upcoming floor meetings.
However, charging residents for damage to their residence halls is not the first option the Office of Residence Life wants to look at.
“Our ideal is to hold the individual who did it, or individuals who did it, responsible,” Brown said. “If we don’t have that information, we are all responsible for what happens in our community. So we need to be aware and either stop it, report it or get someone there who can stop it.”
Senior Doug Morchak, who lives on the third floor of Hamlin Hall, is not happy he has to pay for the vandalism someone else caused.
“Two weeks in a row there were numerous ceiling tiles knocked down, in addition to an exit sign ripped down the one weekend exposing wires that run through the ceilings of third floor Hamlin,” Morchak said via email.
He said Res Life never specifically told him what he would have to pay, but his RA explained the floor would be charged $40-$50 per person if the responsible party or parties weren’t found.
“I’m refusing to pay for it,” Morchak said. “If John Carroll withholds me from classes, graduation, etc., that shows the true colors of the University. Men and women for others? Give me a break.”
Brown said that the residence halls serve as students’ home away from home. Students want to live in an environment that is respected and taken care of, and live with others who feel the same way.
“I always liken it to if you’re at your parents’ house; you’re not going to trash their house,” Brown said. “And this is the same thing – you’re at home here. This is the place where people are coming home, and they want to be able to sleep, study, and hang out with their friends in an environment that is conducive to all three of those.”
Living in the residence halls in also a learning experience, she said.
“You’re learning lots of amazing things in your classes, but you’re also – for many people – living on your own for your first time and learning how to navigate that level of independence that you haven’t had before,” Brown said. “Part of that is being a responsible member of the community and taking care of your surroundings.”
Living in community with other students in a residence hall is a privilege, Brown explained. Not only are residents responsible for their own actions, but also those of other residents in their community.
“We want to hold those who are accountable accountable, but the reality of the situation is that when you live in community, the actions you take impact others,” Brown said. “And so, when we have damage that needs to be fixed, we’ll first look for the person who has done it and that’s why we try to involve the community in that process.”
Morchak does not understand the logic behind Res Life’s policy.
“Even though it’s in the contract, how can you be responsible for all of the others on our floor? I can’t even be responsible for my roommate’s behavior, who I live with, let alone the others on the floor,” he said. “You can’t control the actions of others. School is too stressful to have to worry about other morons who have all the time in the world to rip down ceiling tiles. If John Carroll is so concerned about upholding the integrity of its residence halls, then invest in some security cameras, or get tighter on security and have CSS walk through the halls.”
Students who wish to report information related to vandalism in residence halls may contact their area coordinator or the CSS anonymous tipline. Those responsible for vandalism will likely face restitution – paying for the damage they caused – and go through the student conduct process.
“Part of being a responsible community member is not being a bystander. It’s sharing information, it’s talking – even if you perhaps weren’t home when something happened – with the people who were there,” Brown said. “It’s that positive pressure of, ‘I don’t want to be paying for the poor decision-making of someone else, so who knows what happened here?’”