UVM Students Charged for 'Extreme' Dorm Damages | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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UVM Students Charged for 'Extreme' Dorm Damages

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Published December 6, 2022 at 8:06 p.m.


Damage to an elevator and an ID card reader, shown in the UVM video - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Damage to an elevator and an ID card reader, shown in the UVM video
This fall semester, nearly 450 University of Vermont students have been billed for the destruction of property in residence halls “unlike anything we’ve seen before,” vice provost for student affairs Erica Caloiero said during an October 26 video message to UVM families.

Since the beginning of the school year, the university estimated that students have caused nearly $18,000 worth of damage to school property, some of which was documented in the video. In one residence hall, students apparently removed an elevator door; in other instances, they tore out an electrical panel, broke an ID card reader that allows students to enter campus buildings and busted the tiles of some hallway ceilings, exposing the wiring underneath. As of late October, the university had documented 76 instances of vandalism.

Charles Holmes-Hope, director of residential life at UVM, expressed grave concern about the threats to campus safety these incidents created.

“If a student or guest who was visually impaired walked into this elevator, they would have experienced real harm,” Holmes-Hope said during the video, after showing an image of the doorless maw, which had been cordoned off with caution tape.

The most recent incident of dangerous vandalism occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 4, when someone in Millis Hall set fire to a hand sanitizer dispenser, activating the building's sprinkler system and causing water damage to several rooms. Some students were displaced. The "arson fire" is currently being investigated by police, according to a community letter from Michael Schirling, UVM's chief safety and compliance officer.

In the October video, Caloiero said UVM had calculated the cumulative damages this semester "in excess of six figures." But a university spokesperson told Seven Days this week that the much steeper assessment was “based on early, rough estimates.”
Screenshot from Oct. 26 UVM video depicting ceiling vandalism - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Screenshot from Oct. 26 UVM video depicting ceiling vandalism
UVM has identified the students responsible for the damage in two dormitories, Mason and Simpson. Those students will foot the bill for one-third of the repair costs — to the tune of $1,791 and $2,344, respectively — while UVM will absorb the rest.

In three other dorms — Davis, Hamilton and Coolidge — the university could not identify a responsible party. The students living on the floors where the vandalism took place will share the repair expenses, which come out to roughly $4 per student.

In a statement, Caloiero said “charging students for extensive damage, even when students responsible cannot be identified, is a standard practice in higher ed." She added that the "extreme" property damage, in some cases, posed a serious safety risk to students.

Students and families were billed for these damages on November 30, according to the UVM spokesperson, and had been notified weeks earlier of the possibility of impending charges.

“Likely what we're seeing — and we do understand this — is that it's the intersection of the wrong choices and behaviors along with alcohol consumption and the accompanying disinhibition that can occur,” Caloiero explained during the October 26 presentation, which featured a video clip from an unofficial UVM Instagram account, @barstooluvm, depicting a shirtless male student hurling a chair in a common area. (“Absolute unit, only after a couple of drinks though,” the Instagram caption reads.)

Caloiero also noted that this cohort of college students has weathered major social and educational disruptions due to the pandemic. In light of those upheavals, she advised parents and caregivers to exercise a bit of grace in dealing with their young adults.

“There may be things we want to vent about a little, but that venting doesn't need to go to the place of a wholesale condemnation of what may actually be a metaphorical pebble in the shoe,” Caloiero said. “Even if that pebble gives us a blister.”