Students should not be held liable for University-caused damage.

When the school’s infrastructure isn’t quite robust enough to withstand the chill of a Rochester winter, students should be concerned. When a pipe bursts from the cold in a chronically-chilly residential lounge with no open windows to speak of, students should be upset. And when the University claims non-liability after half of Gale House floods, destroying multiple floors worth of residents’ possessions—including laptops, textbooks, and schoolwork—students should be outraged.

The Office for Residential Life & Housing Services’ Housing Contract stipulates that the University is not responsible for lost or damaged property. This is reasonable, in most cases, and, given that all students who live on campus enter into this contract at the beginning of each school year, it is unsurprising that the University will not compensate the students affected by the flood.

Students’ inquiries about compensation to Residential Life officials, through email and in-person, have been met with polite but no-uncertain-terms responses, quoting the Contract.

But when the University itself is the sole party that could have prevented such an accident, it is irresponsible not to redress students’ grievances. The non-liability that the University claims is contractually sound, but morally applesauce.

Some undergraduates received an email from a Residential Life official last week warning about the dangers open windows and chilly weather pose to pipes. Residents of Gale House did not receive that email.

Instead, Gale House residents received an email—in response to complaints about chilly fourth-floor lounges—that merely reminded them to keep windows closed and move furniture away from the heaters, containing no information about what cold weather can do to water pipes. The failure to include that information, however, should not have mattered: Lounge windows on the fourth floor do not open, and an open window elsewhere in the suite could not easily have caused the temperature to drop low enough in the lounge to freeze a pipe.

Some students affected have homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance—but many don’t. Students can purchase insurance to protect against damage caused by themselves or other students, but should not have to buy insurance—especially from the University, were it an option—to protect against University-caused damage. Further, students have a reasonable expectation that their dormitory will not flood or otherwise prove dangerous or uninhabitable due to circumstances beyond their control—and that they will not have to pay for it when it does.

UR is the only party that can reasonably be held responsible for last weekend’s catastrophe.

Students should, of course, be held liable for student-caused damage. Between stolen dining hall utensils and dishes, vandalism to school property, and time and manpower devoted to dealing with preventable—but expected—mishaps (Public Safety responses to drunk and belligerent partygoers, for instance), the University incurs tremendous incidental costs. We expect the University to charge students, even preemptively, for these.

We do not and should not expect, however, to shoulder the burden for damages beyond our control. To be sure, the University is not directly avoiding responsibility, but in a case like this, refusing to take responsibility amounts to the same thing. Providing accommodations and drying the space are things that the University needed to do, but true acceptance of responsibility comes with recompense for students’ losses.

Indeed, the University has no legal obligation to address these damages, but using contractual argle-bargle as an excuse for inaction is callous. It’s as simple as doing the right thing. And by any reasonable moral barometer, it is not right to leave students out to dry like this.



Notes by Nadia: The myth of summer vacation

Summer vacation is no longer a vacation.

Dinner for Peace was an unconventional way of protesting for Palestine

The dinner showcased aspects of Palestinian culture. It was a unique way of protesting against the genocide, against the Israeli occupation, against the university’s involvement with the genocide.

Hippo Campus’ D-Day show was to “Ride or Die” for

Hippo Campus’ performance was a well-needed break from the craze of finals, and just as memorable as their name would suggest.