We can do better than this

Howard Wilson—VP of University Operations

Contributed Photo

When I get home from work

I’ll call up all my friends

And we’ll go bust up something beautiful

We’ll have to build again.

(Jason Isbell, “Something More than Free”)

Students,

As a Facilities Team, our basic mission is to make Dordt University a great place for you to study and live, as the recent The Diamond feature about Judy Van Roekel’s work in Covenant Hall demonstrated. Our team works long hours, often in challenging conditions, cleaning out sewers, scrubbing walls, and fixing broken or worn items. 

Our team is concerned of significantly increased incidences of vandalism and theft on campus. Some examples include smashing locks, ceiling tiles, and walls; stealing exit signs, fire extinguishers, and bathroom equipment like soap dispensers and signs from restrooms; breaking into a vending machine that doesn’t even belong to Dordt (twice); driving across frozen lawns and parking in fire lanes; stealing a bicycle from a person with a disability (twice); intentionally setting off a fire extinguisher in a bus; throwing ice cream cones at second story windows; stealing classroom clocks (worth more than $125 each), and many other examples.  

These activities create a significant amount of work and expense for our Facilities Team. It means they must spend many hours doing work that would otherwise be unnecessary. It keeps them from doing work that would improve the campus and your life in the Dordt community.  

There are at least four outcomes from this vandalism and theft. 

First, it creates unsafe conditions for you to live in. 

A stolen exit sign in a residence hall may be a “trophy” in a dorm room, but it could also mean that fellow residents might not readily find the exit in case of a fire. An empty fire extinguisher is of no help when bacon grease is on fire. 

Second, it creates unnecessary expense which impacts all students. 

My estimate is that Dordt University will spend almost $50,000 this year on the mitigation of unnecessary damage and theft, including replacement costs, materials, and labor. 

This is about $40 per student and comes mostly from your tuition. It’s like you took two twenty dollar bills out of your pocket and burned them. 

Third, it damages facilities that other people have helped to pay for and is poor stewardship of the resources that God has entrusted us with. 

Many of our buildings at Dordt were funded by the sacrificial giving of people who love the university and want it to both prosper and fulfill its mission. Their gift was not intended for students to carve up bulletin boards with pictures of male anatomy.  

Finally, it is a bad example of what it means to be an effective Kingdom citizen and a representative of our Savior. We’re ambassadors for Christ, who should lead by example.  Students at a Christian college should not vandalize vending machines that belong to someone else. 

Do we think that bad behavior is endemic amongst the entire Dordt student population? Definitely not. It’s likely the Pareto Principle in effect: 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of the causes, or the “vital few.”  In fact, our university’s statistics are more like more than 90 percent of the damage is caused by less than 10 percent of the people.  

So, how shall we then live?  

First, think twice before acting. If you are a person who thinks “Wouldn’t it be fun to follow a high school TikTok influencer and trash a bathroom?”, perhaps you should think again. 

Is it cool to cause damage that takes money from the pockets of your fellow classmates and keeps them from using a restroom? What will you do with a soap dispenser?

If you don’t cause damage or steal things but see it happening, say something to the perpetrator. Positive peer pressure is powerful. If you see something, say something. Let the wrongdoers know that their actions are wrong. 

John Stuart Mill, the president of the University of Saint Andrews [Scotland] said in his inaugural address in 1867:  “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

We can do better than this. 

Thanks for listening, and for making Dordt a great community for all who live and serve here.  

Sola Deo Gloria. 

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