Students awoke to find false 2005 housing and dining contracts that had been slipped under their doors early on the morning of Feb. 25.

The incident was first discovered by the Office of Residential Life.

“It came to our attention when a student brought over the form – all filled out,” Senior Associate Director of Residential Life Laurel Contomanolis said. “It was quite a surprise for everybody.”

The official documents for next year will be distributed to students after spring break.

The false documents were distributed to multiple residence halls, but primarily Susan B. Anthony Residence Hall, which houses mostly freshmen.

UR Security officers have not identified any suspects, but the prank is believed to have been the work of a group of students who identify themselves as members of a pranking society.

In addition to a mock housing contract, students received meal plan descriptions and a letter from Dining Services explaining the fake changes for the 2005-06 academic year.

“Whoever did it, did their research,” ARAMARK Resident District Manager Brad Bingaman said. “They resembled last year’s ResLife documents. It’s not a bad letter – it’s actually quite truthful to dining committees and other forums we use to get input.”

While the documents may appear authentic, there are many discrepancies.

“The contract is the right length, but not the right width – the logo is supposed to be done in navy blue ink,” Contomanolis said.

Continuing, she said, “The lower portion does not reflect what’s on the correct contract for the upcoming year.”

Notable changes in the fake documents were the addition of a 310 Club Meal Plan, as well as mandatory campus-wide substance-free housing.

An April 1 deadline was noted for return of the documents to the Office of Residential Life.

These changes have not been confirmed by ResLife or Dining Services.

“We’re not anticipating any major changes to next year’s plan, but saying anything is premature because it needs to go through the various levels [of the process],” Bingaman said.

ResLife, Dining Services and ARAMARK didn’t hesitate to issue a correction.

“We haven’t distributed [the real housing contracts] yet,” Contomanolis said. “They aren’t coming out until after the students return from break.”

An official e-mail was sent to all students believed to be affected in some way by the prank.

“We got out the e-mail pretty quickly,” Director of Dining Services Cameron Schauf said.

Notifying students of the prank was no small task.

“It took quite the effort to send out e-mails,” Bingaman said.

UR Security is currently investigating the situation.

“When ResLife contacted us, they indicated that didn’t have any idea where [the forms] came from, how they were generated or who was responsible,” UR Security Investigator Dan Lafferty said.

Plans for future judicial action have not been confirmed at this point in the investigation.

“Currently, there is not a police report filed,” Lafferty said. “If persons or person are found responsible, they will, as a minimum, be referred to the Dean of Students’ office for review and discipline.”

No one has formally admitted to the charges. However, a group of students identifying themselves as the UR Student Pranking And Mischief Society, or UR SPAM, contacted the Campus Times on Sunday.

The society has chosen senior Reuben Bushnell to be a liaison between the society and the public. Bushnell’s only contact with the group is by e-mail correspondence. The group claims responsibility for the prank, stating their intentions to “draw attention to the crappy meal plans and a little bit of inconvenience for dining services,” in a written statement.

The statement says that the group plans to pull pranks in the future.

“SPAM Society activities are intended for the greater amusement of the University community,” the letter says. “They are never meant to cause permanent damage or harm.”

While the prank may not have intended to cause harm, it created an extra burden for the offices affected.

“Quite honestly, I’m not sure the whole UR community appreciated it,” Contomanolis said. “It made extra work for us, but the bigger thing is that it made students upset.”

Until the e-mail, many students believed that the documents were authentic.

“I believed it,” freshman Dan Greenstein said. “I was upset that ARAMARK wanted more money.”

In addition to receiving completed forms, Dining Services received complaints from many students.

“It wasn’t thousands, but we received quite a few complaints in response to the falsified contracts,” Bingaman said. “There were several e-mails from frustrated students who were very unhappy.”

Dining Services responded to all e-mails and phone calls.

They informed worried students that the new information will not be released until after spring break.

Even students who did not receive the false contracts were troubled by the incident.

“It’s nice to see people voicing their concerns, but what they accomplished undermined what they were trying to do,” junior David Ladon said.

Ladon has participated in past discussions between students and Dining Services.

“There is a more constructive way to make a statement,” he said.

After realizing the documents were counterfeit, some students enjoyed the prank.

“I got the e-mail and at first I was worried, but after reading it I thought it was funny,” sophomore Seth Bohler said.

“No one got hurt,” freshman Tamar Mintz said. “I thought it was funny.”

The offices that were negatively affected by the prank thought otherwise, though.

“It upset quite a lot of people unnecessarily,” Bingaman said. “Pranks are supposed to be funny – I guess I didn’t find the humor in this one.”

Borchardt can be reached at jborchardt@campustimes.org.



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