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Service May Soon Replace Rooftop Fines

By Laura Nicholson

In response to student concerns and complaints about a new rooftop policy set to go into effect in January, a proposal has been created that would require first-time offenders to perform community service hours rather than pay fines of up to $500.

If approved by the Committee on Discipline next week, the proposed changes would take effect next year instead of the new fines policy, decided upon in June, which would have raised automatic first-time violation fines from the current $50 to a maximum of $500. Prior to this fall, the most recent student to provide input on rooftop violation policy was Josiah D. Seale G during his 2002–2003 term as Undergraduate Association president.

The proposal for requiring community service rather than fines aims to address concerns that high fines might encourage students to run if discovered, creating dangerous situations.

Suggested by Undergraduate Association Vice-President Jessica H. Lowell ’07, the proposal recommends that students caught for the first time in off-limits areas of campus serve up to 10 hours of community service. A second offense would result in up to 20 hours, and a third offense would lead to a $250 fine.

Failure to complete the service hours by a certain deadline would result in a fine of $10 for each uncompleted hour. The punishment would also apply to off-limits areas other than rooftops, such as elevator shafts and areas marked “do not enter,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. Barring aggravating circumstances such as malicious damage, the COD would take no further disciplinary action.

Lowell presented this alternative to Benedict and Senior Associate Dean for Students Robert M. Randolph and worked with them to develop the new policy, which was sent to COD Chair Margery Resnick this past Wednesday. Resnick said she would present the plan to the committee on Wednesday and suggested that the community service be linked to campus security, for example, requiring students to accompany Campus Police at night and learn about keeping the campus secure.

The proposal does not address the nature of the community service, although Benedict said that it might be related to safety. “Part of what you’re looking at is an educational impact of the policy,” he said.

Clay agreed, saying that the switch from monetary fines to community service would bring attention to safety and security. “The point is not to collect money. In fact, every dollar we collect is evidence of failure,” he said. “We’re really trying to get attention and agreement to security.”

All non-students would be fined on the first offense, though MIT-affiliates such as alumni would pay smaller fines than non-affiliates.

Students who had committed previous rooftop violations will be treated as first-time offenders under the proposal, Lowell said.

“I think it takes the Institute’s concerns and issues into account without being destructive to MIT student culture,” she said.