At the end of each week, Elon University police officers can be found inside and outside the Smith Hall residence building, watching carefully for signs of vandalism. They’re on the lookout Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and their shifts last nearly all night.
Their increased presence in the area is in effort to curtail the destruction that has been taking place in Smith Hall since the end of August, when a resident removed a fire extinguisher from its case and covered the first floor with its contents.
Since then, some Smith Hall residents have pulled the first and second floor drinking fountains from the walls, ripped emergency exit signs from the ceilings and smashed bulletin boards and ceiling tiles on the ground. They have dumped body powder on the staircases, launched bricks through the windows and slicked lubricant on doorknobs.
“I feel bad for the people who have to clean it up because it’s not fair to them,” said freshman Corey Glass, a third floor resident of Smith Hall.
Over the course of the semester, both Residence Life and the Campus Safety and Police Department have intensified their patrols of the area, and several vandals have been held accountable for their actions, according to Laura Arroyo, associate director of Residence Life for Residential Education.
But some vandals continue to elude capture, and Smith Hall is still enduring acts of vandalism. Last week, Residence Life held a meeting with the hall residents to emphasize the severity of the problem and encourage students to come forward with any information or concerns regarding the issue. Dennis Franks, director of campus safety and police, participated in the meeting and explained the zero-tolerance approach the department will take if the vandalism does not stop.
“No matter what the offense is, if someone gets cited, they’ll be taken into custody,” Franks said.
But he said he hopes the meeting will encourage the vandals to change their behavior before the department has to take that step.
“These meetings will help,” he said. “Usually when you talk to someone face to face, it has a positive result. You can usually solve a lot of problems that way.”
But some students aren’t sure if the threat of harsher repercussions is enough to stop the vandalism.
“The dorm is still out of control,” said sophomore Nick Foley, a second floor resident of Smith Hall. “I’m looking forward to see if these new policies actually help.”
If the problem persists and the culprits remain unidentified, Arroyo said all Smith Hall residents will be billed for the damages caused to the building. In September, the repair costs totaled about $2,000.
“The first thing we’re going to do is try to hold any students accountable for the damages,” she said. “Billing all students in the residence is a second resort.”
Some residents of Smith Hall are angry at this possibility.
“It’s frustrating, because I feel if I saw it happening, it would be my responsibility to report it,” said freshman Reed Payne, a second floor resident. “A couple guys have claimed it’s just a small amount of money, but paying no money is better.”
Foley agreed and said he does not wish to pay for damages incurred by other Smith Hall residents.
“Ninety-five percent of us who live in Smith Hall are innocent victims of a vandalized living environment,” he said. “The administration needs to find out who did this and punish them, not us.”