Problematic Privilege at PC: The “Mom and Dad Will Pay for It” Mindset Prevents Students from Taking Responsibility for their Actions

by The Cowl Editor on October 3, 2019


Missing and broken ceiling tiles are a common type of
residence hall damage, occurring frequently in
underclassmen residence halls such as Aquinas Hall, pictured
above. Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/The Cowl.


by Joshua Chlebowski ’21

Opinion Staff

Living in a residence hall provides students with many opportunities to grow and learn alongside a community of their peers. Getting to know a group of individuals with different life experiences and forming friendships with these individuals are certainly some of the most positive aspects of residential living.

When the weekend nights approach, some of these responsible community members will turn to destructive actions that lead to the accumulation of floor and residence hall damage fines.

Broken ceiling tiles, people leaving through fire doors, broken toilets, water fountains being broken and destroyed: residents receive many emails each month detailing their increasingly large floor and hall fines. 

For some reason, accumulating damage fines in residence halls is a point of pride for many students. Yet this sentiment betrays an alarming privilege and disregard for others, one which will no longer be acceptable once the college experience is over.

One prevailing misconception about these fines is that they are purely meant as punishment for poor behavior, but the reality is that these fines go directly towards fixing damaged items and paying those employees that have to clean up these messes. 

Many residents routinely shrug these fines off, however, claiming, “My parents will pay for them anyway.”

This statement relieves the residents of the responsibility they have for their actions and to each other. By claiming that these destructive actions will not have a direct impact on them, residents refuse the opportunity to grow into mature adults.

In the post-graduate world, you are responsible for your actions. If you choose to go to a bar, drink too much, and cause damage to another person or the establishment itself, you will be financially liable, not your parents or guardians.

While many students might claim that, yes, they do understand that their actions have consequences, those that continue to damage buildings and adopt an “I don’t care” attitude about fines refuse to assume responsibility.

The impact that these words have goes beyond the simple indication of a lack of ability to take responsibility for destructive actions.  This demonstrates a certain level of privilege that not all students at Providence College are afforded.

Students at PC come from a variety of economic backgrounds and have different financial situations and family lives. Some parents may not be able to afford such steep damage fines, and indeed others may refuse to support and pay for them.

Claiming that your parents will pay for your mistakes reminds other students that they may not have the same support. If these students did not participate in any of the actions warranting these financial penalties, this reminder creates irritation and stress which is harmful to creating a positive place of growth.

Just because your parents may be able and willing to shoulder the responsibility that you are shirking by refusing to give credence to the fine and financially contributing to fixing the issue does not mean that everyone at PC is as fortunate, and flaunting this privilege is highly irresponsible and disrespectful.

As a result of these privileged and irresponsible statements, a certain apathy among floor members develops surrounding the prevention of future damage fines, because at least according to those rather verbal community members, it is the parents that will be shouldering the financial burden anyways.

When emails and communications are sent detailing the amount of money accumulated in damage fines, there is a frustration expressed by many students. Once a resident assistant or residence life employee informs students that finding the responsible person will result in the fine only being assessed to that individual, students respond by actively dissuading any resident from “snitching.” 

If there were a better way of determining who committed the action which led to the damage of college property, the Department of Residence Life would most certainly use it. Since most of these actions occur where there are no security cameras, though, it becomes much more difficult to determine the responsible party without student cooperation. 

The issue at hand goes beyond simply the PC residence halls, as it is these conversations surrounding damage fines that indicate the troubling trend of college students refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

Although it is unlikely there will ever be an academic year where no damage fines are assessed, that does not mean the dialogue surrounding these financial accruements should remain the same.