For those of you not in the know, a pod check is -- or more precisely, was -- a pretty innocuous event. Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., one of Ytterboe's numerous Resident Assistant's (R.A.) would go around the dorm, knocking on the door of every pod. When given the "okay" to enter, the R.A. would proceed into the pod's "common room" and make sure (a) that nothing was exploding and (b) no one was imbibing alcohol. But while the pod check itself was not a particularly terrifying experience, the entire concept behind the practice did seem demeaning. Most of Ytterboe's residents are 22 years old, on the verge of adulthood and graduation. Why did the College feel the need to check in on us every night?
Thankfully, Pamela McDowell, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, was willing to respond when a number of seniors complained about the efficacy of pod checks in a special survey her office issued in October. She decided to eliminate pod checks on a trial basis during interim; they were completely eliminated upon the start of second semester.
However, the behavior of Ytterboe residents over the past two weekends has raised troubling questions about how much "respect" and "responsibility" Ytterboe residents really deserve. In a long and detailed e-mail sent out on Wednesday, Feb. 20, McDowell listed all the noteable acts of vandalism that have plagued St. Olaf's most prized dorm in recent weeks.
In the ground-floor game room, two pool tables have been picked up and moved; a ping-pong table was also broken. A couple of industrious vandals ripped a vending machine out of the wall in order to avoid paying for their munchies. In the music practice rooms, custodians found a veritable goodie bag of cigarettes, used condoms, used tampons and beer bottles. Five light fixtures have been shattered. An egg fight took place in the south corridor of the ground floor.
There may not be any correlation between the elimination of pod checks and the recent spats of vandalism. Indeed, nearly all of the vandalism has taken place in the hallways, lounges and bathrooms -- outside the confines of individual pods. But the lack of respect for Ytterboe's facilities is troubling, and not only because continued vandalism portends the reinstitution of the (admittedly) annoying pod checks. Simply put, Ytterboe residents demanded that the administration treat us like adults, but our behavior over the past few weeks suggests we don't deserve that sort of treatment. Ytterboe is a better place without pod checks. It's also a better place when there's no glass on the floor and the used condoms make it into the garbage bin.