Theft and Damage at St. John Hall

Where have all the Ping-Pong balls gone? That’s what Mr. Jim Yanelli, Director of Student Activities, and his team have found themselves asking more than once in these opening weeks of the school year.

Choate’s St. John Hall is a beautiful new building, but its equipment seems to not like living there. So far this year, Mr. Yanelli has discovered that two X-Box controllers went missing, many Wii U controllers were disassembled, sixty-seven ping pong balls were used, and two cue stick tips were removed, which causes significant damage to table felt. “Inappropriate music was streamed in the game room in too many instances to count. Students routinely walked away from their food and beverage containers leaving meeting rooms and public areas embarrassingly messy,” wrote Mr. Yanelli. Sarah Stern ’21 recounted, “The other day I saw a kid take a pool cue and bang it into the roof, and a panel fell off.”

The Student Council has been working and communicating with Mr. Yanelli in the past several weeks to help minimize the damage to and theft from the school’s newest building. Student Council has even formed a subcommittee within the council whose focus is the mistreatment of St. John.

Because the student center is meant for the students, and the students are primarily the ones who interact with it, this issue was brought first and foremost to the attention of the student council, which, much like St. John Hall, is both for and comprised of students.

“When the student council heard about the severity of the misuse of the SAC, the subcommittee began drafting proposals to help rectify the situation,” said Caroline Rispoli ’20, fourth-form representative. “Our ideas included attaching cables to all controllers in the Game Room, preventing the threat of the equipment being stolen, and, if the issue worsened, having the administration make an announcement at an all school meeting asking students to return all stolen items to a bucket/the lost and found, which would be an anonymous return.”

In regard to the damage and loss of ping pong balls, Rispoli ’20 stated, “The idea was to attach a ping pong ball holder/dispenser to the side or underside of the table, allowing students easy access to return the balls when they were finished playing.”

In addition to these ideas, Reade Ben ’18, sixth-form representative, said, “Such solutions are short term. As a greater, overarching goal, student council hopes to encourage attitudes of respect and decency in regards to treating the SAC. While clearly many Choate students have such attitudes, the condition of the SAC clearly indicates that some of our peers have yet to incorporate such values into their actions.”

In addition to many proposed solutions, the student council also spoke about the issue at some of the form meetings that took place on September 27. “After discussing the best way for announcements to be made, whether that should be by the administration at all-school meeting or by form representatives in a more personal and ‘peer-oriented’ setting, we opted for the latter,” explained Rispoli.

The issue of the mistreatment of the SAC, however, was not elaborated on at the sixth-form meeting. Said Ben, “I think the form meeting talks are much too short to really significantly alter campus attitudes, but I believe they are a step in the right direction. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the condition of the SAC elaborated on at the sixth-form meeting.” The student council plans on following up with Mr. Yanelli in the coming weeks in order to determine whether or not the form meeting talks made a significant difference in students’ attitudes about the SAC.

These past few weeks, however, have not been the only periods of time when there have been issues in students’ treatment of the new SAC. “Last May, Mr. Yanelli and Mr. Stanley reached out to student council about the issues in the SAC,” said Ben. “Even though the building was open for merely a month and a half, some issues were already prevalent, such as music choices, language, volume, and trash.”

“In terms of future plans, the Student Council will continue to monitor improvements and/or the continuation of misuse once systems have been implemented,” continued Rispoli. “If the situation persists or worsens, we will discuss with Mr. Yanelli and talk as a Council about further steps that can be taken. This will mean the implementation of stricter rules and harsher consequences, but we do hope that the recent ideas to rectify the issues will be successful.”

As students at this school, who are represented by the behavior of their classmates, many students are put off by this issue. About the issue of stealing, Ben said, “The fact that theft is, and continues to be, an issue at Choate is discouraging.” He added that those responsible “negatively impact everyone else’s Choate experience.”

He continued, “The messes left behind in St. John are picked up by ABM workers, who should not have to deal with such conditions. Ben said that the recent treatment of St. John Hall damages the reputation of the Choate community. “Responsibility,” Ben went on, “requires no talent, only general human decency.”

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