When Anne Funderburk (COL ’05) saw she had been billed $200 for dry-wall damages to her Alumni Square apartment from last year, she couldn’t remember having left any damages.

But after learning that scores of students had been illegitimately billed for damages or over billed for minor damages, she realized that the problem had a far greater reach.

“Things really started to happen when I talked to others and discovered how many people were being charged in Henle and [Alumni Square],” she said.

Although her charges have since been removed, an unprecedented number of students have related similar problems in response to damage reports filed at the end of last year.

Peter Keane (MSB ’05) admitted he was responsible for $100 of wall damages, the price assessed when he checked out of his Alumni Square apartment in May, but was surprised to find a fee twice the size on his bill.

“We were told [by housing] if we did not fix the damage we would be charged $100,” he said. “We fixed the damaged walls and then were charged nearly $200 each – $800 for wall damage.” After repeated e-mails and calls to University Student Housing and Facilities, Keane said the charges were reduced back to $100.

Eric Lashner (COL ’05) became so frustrated that the housing office would not provide him with a reason for a $160 fine for damages that he brought his case to small claims court before his charges were waived.

“Basically I tried to resolve this problem in-house but no one in the housing office would talk to me,” Lashner said. “I tried to meet with people within the office, and I sent numerous e-mails and letters as well as calling multiple times before I filed my suit.”

Lashner dropped the lawsuit after the fines were removed.

Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing, maintained that the department is working to correct any charges that were made in error or for which new information has been presented.

“This is an issue I don’t recall occurring the past. Some claims were legitimate, and others were not,” she said. “It is taking some time but everyone who has raised a question and has a legitimate claim will either have the charge reduced or dropped. If it is a legitimate charge, then we will provide an explanation.” In one case, Frank said, students had painted a room in their apartment red during the school year and despite painting the room white at the end of the year, the red paint still bled through. The students were charged because facilities management had to repaint the room again.

Frank also said the university encountered difficulties in scheduling the end of the year room inspections.

“One of the biggest concerns is that not all of the inspections were completed before students left for the summer,” she said. “Also, the room condition reports were not filled out in a consistent manner at the beginning of the year, sometimes making interpretation difficult at the end of the year.”

Before move-in began for the academic year, more consistent and precise procedures were put in place for writing room condition reports, Frank added.

“We spent more time on inspections and we had more people involved,” she said. “There is in place this year a clearer set of definitions to describe what constitutes prior damage. Hopefully that will help in the future.”

In response to these and other complaints to the University Student Housing and Facilities department outlined in a July 18 report submitted to Senior Vice President Spiros Dimolitsas, GUSA has recommended the creation of a Housing and Facilities Advisory Board to address these issues.

“We’re hoping to establish direct avenues to resolve these issues with administrators,” GUSA President Brian orgenstern (COL ’05) said.

The student association has submitted the proposal to Frank, as well as to government professor Anthony Arend, the Faculty Senate Chair for the Main Campus, and German professor Peter Pfeiffer, the student affairs liaison of the Faculty Senate.

The Housing and Facilities Advisory Board would be a multilateral group that will give feedback on an ongoing basis concerning housing and facilities issues, including response times by facilities, housing conditions, housing selection and safety issues, Morgenstern said. The board will report to Frank.

The board would include representatives from GUSA, the Housing Department, Residence Life and the Facilities Department. orgenstern said he hopes to include chaplains and faculty-in-residence on the council, but Morgenstern said that GUSA and the Student Housing and Facilities Department have not reached a decision on this issue.

Frank said the already-existing Housing Advisory Council, which deals largely with the student housing selection process and other student housing issues, has been able to address most issues. For example, the council helped select the furniture for the new Southwest Quad residences and it gave input on the renovation of Copley Hall, she said. The council includes students from GUSA and InterHall, resident assistants and housing employees.

“The GUSA Housing Advisory Council has existed for eight years and has dealt mostly with student housing,” she said. “What GUSA is proposing is that all facilities issues will be dealt with, but it will continue to deal primarily with student housing. Students aren’t likely to call in work orders for academic buildings, for the Leavey Center . and for buildings other than residence halls.”

Morgenstern said that the new advisory board would differ from the Housing Advisory Council.

“The Housing Advisory Council is an ad hoc group called by [Director of Student Housing] Shirley Menendez to make recommendations to her on how to run a successful housing selection process,” he said. “It just has that one narrow purpose and only meets a couple of times a year.”

GUSA’s report highlights additional student concerns dealing with facilities and student housing, including chronic lighting outages on campus and the summer housing policy, which moves summer tenants up to four times, according to the report.

Frank said that students who stay from the end of the spring semester to the beginning of the fall semester may have to move to late stay and early arrival housing if their academic year housing assignment is not yet vacated from the summer.

“From the beginning to the end of the summer term, there are no moves,” she said. “We don’t like to move people anymore than they like to be moved. If possible, we’ll move people straight from late stay to their fall housing assignment.”

Students, however, criticized responsiveness of the department.

“It is time that something changes,” Lashner said. “It is imperative that university leadership act now to create positive change for the numerous offices in Student Housing and Facilities.”

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