In wake of damages, RLHS sanctions Giles

Residents of Giles Dormitory on East Campus awoke Sunday morning to find their building ransacked.

Cake batter and eggs were splattered over the walls of the kitchen, a window screen was kicked out and slashed and two fire extinguishers were stolen. Additionally, two paintings had been ripped off the walls.

The total cost of the damage was valued at approximately $1,050.

A student also discovered poster board in the dorm's oven Sunday morning when she tried to use the stove and smelled the paper burning.

The damages are believed to have occurred sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday morning, but they were not reported until Sunday at 4 p.m., when a resident assistant discovered the wreckage.

"Every indication has been that it was one or two students who are residents of Giles," said Lisa Beth Bergene, East's assistant dean for residence life. "There's a common thread that runs through what people have heard in the Marketplace, on the bus and so on."

She said all information has been passed to Duke University Police Department, which is conducting an investigation into the vandalism. Because of the cost, it is a larceny violation, Bergene said.

In response to the incident, Residence Life and Housing Services officials have lowered three sanctions on the dorm.

Until March 20, Giles House Council funding is frozen, and card access will be restricted to Giles residents only, 24 hours a day. In addition, if culprits are not identified by Feb. 20, all residents will be responsible for the cost of the damages.

Students were informed of the sanctions Feb. 7 in a letter signed by both Bergene and Anne Magnan, residence coordinator for Giles.

"What happened is totally unprecedented, given the amount of damage," Magnan said. "We've had some other disciplinary issues this year, but nothing outside of what you'd expect from a first-year dormitory."

Many students who live in Giles are upset, both by the destruction that occurred and by the measures taken by RLHS.

"We're being doubly victimized because not only were our things stolen from the dorm, but we have to pay for it," said Alex Keybl, a freshman. "They can't keep the dorm secure, and we're paying for that."

When damage occurs to residence halls, RLHS often pays for the repairs, depending upon the level of damage, Bergene said. The practice is less common on West Campus, where the presence of selective living groups makes it easier to assign monetary penalties. When damages are very high in cost or clearly intentional, however, the cost may be charged to the hall, house or dormitory in which the offense was committed.

The result of this policy is a lack of direct accountability and steadily increasing residence fees, said Campus Council President Jay Ganatra, a junior. Ganatra added that Campus Council will consider recommending a switch to a system of hall charges, similar to the one mandated by Magnan and Bergene.

Keybl complained that the funding freeze is a gratuitous action on the part of RLHS because it has nothing to do with repaying the cost of the damages. But he said he was most upset about the potential repair fee, as he does not think all residents should be held liable.

"The RC is saying that it's our responsibility to police the hallways, when in reality that's not our job," he said. "We pay people to do this. They're called security."

Magnan said she does not agree with residents who say RAs and security should have done more to prevent damage.

"Shouldn't I expect my residents to respond?" she asked. "They've all chosen to become parts of the Duke community, and there's a certain level of responsibility that goes with that."

Freshman Julien Cobert, Giles House Council president, said the funding freeze will limit activities for the dormitory.

"That's pretty much what affects me as [president]," he said. "The fact that they tried to punish the person or people involved through the house council."

The funding freeze endangers two projects the House Council had slated for the coming weeks: the purchase of a ping-pong table, which was to occur this week, and a study break party scheduled for sometime during the NCAA men's basketball tournament.


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