University reevaluates e-mail policies after gaffe

The University is reevaluating its rules governing listserv e-mails after an unauthorized e-mail was sent to thousands of students, alerting them to a new University policy requiring students to pay for damages done to the common areas in residence halls.

The e-mail, sent at about 4 p.m. Friday to 7,200 students, was not approved by the proper University administrators, and was sent by a mid-level manager in response to the widespread damage in Ivory Tower and other residence halls this fall.

A second e-mail sent at about 9 p.m. from Dean of Students Peter Konwerski and Senior Associate Vice President of Operations Alicia O’Neil said the initial e-mail was an error in communication and the University has no plans to charge students for damage done in common areas.

“We will also be reviewing our communication procedures to ensure that messages that do not accurately reflect the University’s intentions are not distributed in this manner,” O’Neil said.

E-mails outlining major policy changes must first go through either the Office of the President or the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs for authorization. The first e-mail never went through that vetting process.

The Residential Community Conduct Guidelines and Administrative Policies says students can be held accountable for paying for destruction done to school property, but charging students who are not found guilty for the damage would be a new policy.

The policy would have charged residents for damages to common areas on their respective floors. Damage to all-building areas, like living rooms and elevators, would be split between residents in the entire building. Ivory Tower has seen $3,000 in damages this fall, and residents would pay about $4 per person if charged for the previous damage.

O’Neil said that while the original correspondence was incorrect, the University was particularly frustrated with destruction happening in on-campus residence halls.

“Vandalism to University property is a serious and ongoing problem that we hope to address with the help of the entire community,” O’Neil said.

University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay said seven reports have been filed for destruction of property in Ivory Tower since classes began in August, with most destruction cases occurring Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.

“One can form an opinion the damage is linked with the parties that are typical on those nights,” Hay said.

Hay said the University Police Department interviewed several witnesses during the past month, but no one perpetrator was identified or charged for the destruction. Hay said being caught would result in a criminal record.

“Those convicted will be subject to potential jail time and fines. If they are 18 or over, they will have a permanent arrest record which can be detrimental to future job searches and the ability to obtain security clearances,” Hay said.

Students who received the afternoon e-mail said that while they felt it was unfair to be held responsible for the actions of an unknown person, the policy could finally put an end to what has become a burden for students dealing with vandalized buildings.

“It sucks for us,” Clark Brown, a junior living in Ivory, said of the policy. “But there is no other way to go about it.”

Sophomore Ivory resident Jessica Antretter said she felt the first e-mail was just a scare tactic to stop vandalism from occurring. Antretter said she would object if students were actually charged.

“It costs so much to live in Ivory, they shouldn’t charge me,” Antretter said.

Emily Cirillo contributed to this report.

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