By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

Vandalism in the Residence Halls: It’s Not Just The University’s Problem


If you’re a student living on campus, then you’ve almost certainly heard about the regular occurrences of vandalism within the residence halls, if you have not seen it yourself. 

Vandalism and destruction of property are often just a part of the life that students accept as normal. They hear about something that happened, shrug their shoulders and move on with their day. Most of the time, students see vandalism as nothing more than a minor inconvenience that they’ve come to expect and accept.

According to fourth-year anthropology major Rahma Mohamed, who has been an RA on the CWU campus for three years, some of the residence halls have it worse than others. 

When discussing her current year working in Barto Hall, Mohamed said, “I will say now that I live in a hall that’s much more occupied than the other halls I’ve lived in, I do see a lot more vandalism going on.” 

She says that from what she’s seen and heard from other RAs, as well as those above her, the majority of the damage happens in the larger, newer halls such as Barto and Dugmore.

In the most impactful instances of vandalism, there are clear cases that stand above the rest, “I will say the most costly incidents have been the ripping of exit signs,” Mohamed said. “Exit signs are pretty expensive, as I’ve heard from my boss and my boss’s boss.”

According to, exit signs similar to those used in the dorm buildings on campus can easily cost more than $200, not taking into consideration the cost of installation. OSHA has very specific rules and regulations for public buildings when it comes to emergency exits, as outlined in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.37.

Included are very specific instructions on when and where to place exit signs throughout the building, making clear that all exits must be properly labeled. OSHA takes its standards very seriously, and non-compliance can result in serious penalties, ranging anywhere from a warning to considerable fines, up to $136,532 per violation in cases where there is a danger of severe harm or death. 

To put that into perspective, in-state students at CWU pay $6,656 per year in tuition, so $136,532 in fines is the equivalent of paying for 20.5 years of tuition. 

Naturally, this means that the school does everything that it can to avoid these violations and get the exit signs repaired as fast as possible. But that money still has to come from somewhere.

If these violations go on, potentially that money may be coming more and more from the pockets of every single student living in the residence halls. “Your tuition or your housing fee could go up because of those events, if there’s significant damage to the building, I know that housing will hold a meeting,” Mohamed said.

Because of the regular occurrence of vandalism, and because of the cost, Mohamed said housing is considering charging more for certain residence halls or charging more across the board. 

It’s not just a monetary impact that students may face, it’s a real, actual danger. In the event of an emergency, such as a fire, gas leak or any other dangerous threat, being able to safely and quickly evacuate the building is crucial to keep everybody safe. Exit signs are proven to be an important factor in maintaining safety during an emergency, and preventing harm to students and staff.

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