Housing fines continue to cost students

Palmetto Phase III residents came home last week to find a sign taped to their doors. Students were told to attend a mandatory meeting in the facility’s assembly room Tuesday night, provide an excused absence allowance from the resident director or face a $75 fine.

In the Residence Life guidebook, there are 35 violations that result in fines for students residing in on-campus housing. Failure to attend a mandatory meeting is not one of them.

“It’s just something that should be communicated and understood. It’s up to the discretion of the resident director of the facility. It’s not to upset (residents) or cause a conflict,” said Chafeeza Bain, president of the resident housing association. “As a student you should communicate any problems you have.”

The housing department collected$174,496.50 according to Mattie Trawick last year.

Masekela Mandela, 21, has never been fined throughout his four-year stay in on-campus housing, but failed to attend the meeting in Phase III. The subject of the meeting was money management, a skill which this professional MBA student said he has learnedto master without the help of campus housing.

“I’m a fourth-year student. I have a lot of other priorities to take care of on campus. This honestly wasn’t a priority for me,” said Mandela. “I do think that (fines) are extravagant, a little too much for college students to be paying that much money for the slightest run-ins and infractions.”

Mandela has not been fined for missing the meeting, but said revenue generated from the housing fines doesn’t appear to be addressing his concerns as a resident.

“I don’t see any of the money going to better the living conditions at Phase III. We still have leaky ceilings in the hallways. Lights go out and aren’t replaced. There’s broken down furniture and dirty carpeting. The money that’s being taken from students through fines doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”

However, Trawick, associate director of the housing office, said funds collected from fines go toward the betterment of resident housing.

“These funds are used for repairs and replacement costs when there is damage to the facility. The money is also used to fund programming in the residence halls as we do not collect activity fees to cover our programs.”

Trawick said there is a way to avoid the consequences of not paying fines.

“Students have an option to meet with the resident advisor and discuss community service in many cases. When there is physical damage to the facility, there is not an option,” Trawick said.

Bain, a resident assistant for Palmetto South, said she understands students like Mandela have scheduling conflicts but believes communication is key to avoiding fines.

“Fines are not something I like to do. If residents don’t take the initiative to communicate their issues with me or let me know then fines are accessed,” Bain said. “Residents are notified different ways. I call my meetings mandatory so they will know that it’s not a social. It’s better to speak with the resident assistant ahead of time than to wait until you’re already given a fine,” Bain said.