Last term, Hamblin Hall racked up over $1,000 in common area damages, including a broken elevator and two discharged fire extinguishers.
That $1,375 term total surpassed the building’s common area damage charge for all of last year.
But despite flare-ups in certain problem areas, residential damages have decreased campus-wide over the past three years, according to Assistant Director of Campus Life and Housing Operations Koreen Kerfoot. At the end of 2012-2013 academic year, the campus total reached above $20,000. Last year, that number dropped to just over $10,000.
Kerfoot credits the improvement to increased attention from residential advisors during the move-out process, including more “intentional conversations” with residents and the consistent use of room condition report forms. This increased accountability helps ensure students do not get double-billed for pre-existing damages.
But such efforts do not seem sufficient to quell a given year’s problem areas. This year, that problem appears to be Hamblin.
Kerfoot attributed the hall’s rise in damage fees to carelessness towards college policy among some current residents.
“Probably there’s some students who just have less respect for the community,” Kerfoot said. “It fits in with the fact that the building has been louder all year.”
Junior Steffi Antony, resident advisor for Exec and Tompkins Halls, offered a similar analysis. Hamblin’s resident advisor could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
“It’s so much easier to get first-years to listen to you,” said Antony. “I feel like upperclassmen don’t care as much.”
She thinks the distance between upperclassmen and Campus Life might play a role. Last year, Antony served as RA to a freshman suite in Conger-Neal. Living among her 21 residents, Antony would notice when a chair looked like it might break or could warn her residents not to use damaging adhesives to decorate the walls. She does not recall her suite being charged for any common area damages at the end of the year.
In Exec and Tompkins, there is less she can do.
“Now I’m in my own apartment and I don’t know what’s going on in the other apartments unless Koreen’s like, ‘Oh, can you go check in on them?'” she said.
Antony believes that offering RAs free room and board instead of the current stipend and requiring those who take the offer to hold regular residence hours could help decrease damage charges overall.
She said that Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich proposed this change to the current RA staff at a recent meeting and will be taking the proposal to the Board of Trustees for approval soon.
Director of Facilities Scott Maust also supports an increase in compensation for RAs. Maust, who has worked at Knox since 1996, remembers a time when the RAs were gone faster than the residents at the end of the year.
Improved check-out procedures and increased RA efforts have helped lower damage charges, he said. Maust also highlighted the creation of the $50 excessive cleaning fee as a helpful deterrent.
He noted a particular improvement in the amount of trash left behind during move-out. After commencement during his first year on the job, he was forced to stall his paint crew for a week while they hauled out all the garbage left behind in residence halls.
Still, damages of all kinds have a pernicious effect, according to Maust.
“[Damages] take away resources – college dollars – that could be utilized for other improvements,” said Maust. “Consequently, all of that affects your cost to come to the college.”