Letter to the Editor: Justice for all?

I read with interest the March 8 article on vandalism at the Dakota – and the possibility of all residents footing the bill unless the real perpetrators are turned in (“GW may charge for damage,” p. 2). I have strong feelings on this subject having taught at a private college where a few rich alcoholic students trashed a dorm – after which all its residents, including hard-pressed scholarship students, had enormous charges billed to their homes. One student came to me heartbroken; she could not afford books for my class because of the vandalism fees, and the bursar would not let her graduate without paying the bill for a party she never attended.

Her parents, poor Caribbean immigrants working as janitors, were shocked to receive a bill for window damage in their daughter’s name. They, too, supported some method of punishment and accountability, but only for the guilty, not at the expense of their daughter’s schoolbooks.

The idea that the innocent should turn in the vandals is not always feasible when damage is done by violent hallmates with a grudge toward any snitch. At my previous institution, a female student who identified the classmate wrecking her dorm was hit in the face with a bottle for “trying to get him in trouble.” I don’t have the answer, and I am sorry to be familiar with the problem.

-Bonnie J. Morris
women’s studies professor

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