When The Few Ruin It For The Masses

When D left for college for the first time in September 2010, we were wide-eyed parents, navigating the parent end of secondary education in the best way we could. Like anything, there were little surprises here and there (nothing we couldn’t handle: don’t worry, all of you with younger kids!).

One of those little surprises was the occasional appearance on our monthly college invoice of small charges: $1.50 here, $1.10 there…I had no idea what was going on. Was it a charge to fix the cable? Did they charge us to change a lightbulb in the dorm? No clue.

Rightfully wanting to know what we were paying for, I made a call to the school’s Business Office to inquire about the bizarre little charges on our bill.

“Oh,” I was told, “those are community repair charges.”

Huh?

Community Repair Charges.

Definition: When something is broken–or worse, destroyed–in the dorm and nobody steps up to take responsibility, the cost of repair or replacement is divided among all residents.

While the idea of being charged for things my kid isn’t directly responsible for annoys me to no end, I completely understand it from the school/business side.

I was told that the $1.76 we had to pay towards the repair of an intentionally busted bathroom sink (yes, this goes on!) was nothing compared to a couple of years ago, when a few guys decided to destroy a bunch of campus-owned dorm furniture, resulting in each and every family having to pay more than $75 to replace it.

Most recently, we had to pay something along the lines of eighty cents per family towards what it cost to have a cleaning crew come in after a group of dorm residents smeared their leftover pizzas all over the walls and furniture in the lounge (YES, THIS GOES ON!).

So you can understand why I seized up a little bit when D called earlier today, to warn me about a $25 charge that would appear on next month’s invoice. Luckily, it wasn’t what I thought.

“I’m so ticked,” he said. “I lost my ID and they charged me TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS to replace it! But I had to, or I couldn’t eat or get into any of the buildings. I looked for it EVERYWHERE; I know it’s in my room somewhere.” (Our family’s famous saying, originated by my mom: “It’s here somewhere!”) He was disturbed to the point of raising his voice when telling me about it.

I reassured him that although I’m not thrilled about the charge, he had to replace his card and it’s not like he loses things all the time. He was still annoyed. “They shouldn’t be charging that much! It’s ridiculous!”

That’s when I had to explain to him that if they didn’t make it expensive, other students (the ones who are used to not taking care of their stuff and then still getting no-questions-asked replacements by their lenient parents) would be misplacing their cards all the time. Those few end up ruining things for the masses. After a minute, he got it, but still found it ridiculous.

After he calmed down, I told him I’d let him go so he could get going on his homework.

“Wait,” he said, “did I tell you about how a bunch of guys in the other wing discharged a bunch of fire extinguishers? That’s costing us two bucks.”

Ugh.

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  1. Apparently, that’s not the case at all schools – in the 2.5 years #3 son has been at North Central College, we haven’t seen anything like that. Although, I suppose, they probably just average those costs year over year and it becomes part of the tuition. Or maybe it’s figured into the housing costs. That would make more sense.

    In any case – that bites.

    • Yep, I bet they add it into housing costs. Either that or everyone at NCC is very respectful of the dorms. 🙂

  2. The only time I encountered that kind of behavior was when I lived in a coed dorm for one semester in 1998. This kind of stuff didn’t happen in women only dorms. In the coed dorm I had a room with three Russian men next door and they did things like break a toilet off the wall and throw mattresses out the window. I think I would have pitched a fit if I’d had to pay for their destruction.

  3. So you’re saying I should skip buying the weekly donuts to save for this. That’s rough. For me.

  4. I always lived in co-ed dorms and there was always something being destroyed. My university must of hidden the repair costs inside the price of room and board, because I don’t remember anything like what you’ve described going on. I wouldn’t like to be charged like you are. I can see how it’d be annoying.

    • Totally. But he’s a great kid so I know if that happens, he’ll offer to split the $25 with me. I’ll refuse, since this never happens to him, but I’ll appreciate his thoughtfulness. 🙂

  5. Wow! Thank goodness OU does not do this. Ouch! I would be very ticked at having to pay for a bunch of morons that spread pizza all over walls and furniture. Personal responsibility anyone??

    • I know. So annoying! I have a feeling it’s getting paid for one way or another there, though. I think Lou was right: some schools probably roll it into housing costs…

  6. Where does he go? My son was in the dorms at Iowa last year and nothing like this came up. (And those kids are cra-zazy!) He’s in an apartment this year and we all know how that can work out. (Vanishing security deposit, anyone?)

    • He goes to a small college in Wisconsin. And yep, I’ve heard about those vanishing security deposits! 🙂 The thought of that nauseates me at the moment. haha

  7. #amazed that COLLEGE students can be so destructive. Really…it’s unfathomable to me. …I’m from outside of America, went to university in the Caribbean – I never lived on dorm but I visited all the time and the attitude to property was totally different. It was a communal effort to take care of everything and to make sure nothing was destroyed and to always keep the dorms clean. :/

    That bites. Tsk.

    • I know, right? I would expect something right in the middle, where they aren’t much interested in keeping everything super-clean but definitely no DESTRUCTION. I’m not sure how they can do stuff like that and feel good about it. 🙁

  8. Community Repair Charges sounds like the only fair way to handle it. Still the ones doing the damage aren’t facing total consequences for their actions. Probably a good thing my hubs college dorm didn’t have that policy when some floor mates managed to bring a horse up the elevator.