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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Law student emerges victorious in housing battle

Jacob Goldman found himself underwater this semester – in more ways than one.

Goldman, a third year law student, lives in the Flint Apartments at UB. On Sept. 9, Goldman's toilet overflowed, soaking his carpet. Even after attempting to turn off the toilet manually, water continued to overflow throughout Goldman's apartment. That night, Goldman placed a work order with UB Apartments.

The next day, the Flint Maintenance Staff entered Goldman's apartment without notice to assess the situation. The staff found his apartment in poor condition and requested that he clean it by the following morning.

Goldman said that he attempted to clean the apartment, but because the overflowing toilet directly caused the disarray in his living space, there was only so much he could do.

'Most of the bags that were blocking the doorway were not filled with garbage, but were rather filled with paper towels that I had used in my attempts to dry the carpet caused by the malfunctioning toilet,' Goldman said. 'The soaked clothes I [had] piled up against my couch [were] the clothes that were damaged by the overflowing toilet.'

Because the conditions in the apartment had not improved, David Dahlberg, the complex director of Flint Village Apartments, charged Goldman with a $250 sanction for unsanitary living conditions and violation of fire codes. Goldman was also required to attend a judicial hearing with Dahlberg about the matter.

Goldman wanted his father to accompany him to the meeting for support, but claimed that Dahlberg would not accommodate his schedule.

Goldman ultimately attended the hearing without his father present. At the hearing, Goldman claimed that Dahlberg was 'abusive' and denied his basic student rights.

Differences in opinion

'I could tell from the beginning that he had already determined the outcome,' Goldman said. 'I told him what happened, and he kept interrupting me throughout the whole thing.'

Goldman also claimed that Dahlberg harped on the fact that he didn't call the Flint community assistant when the incident occurred, as the UB Apartments Rules and Regulations handbook dictates. Goldman pointed out that no student has the entire handbook memorized, so the fact that he did not immediately call the community assistant should not be an issue.

Goldman also alleged that Dahlberg, who was unavailable for comment, dismissed the relevant evidence and only charged him $250 because a cleaning crew had to be called in.

He added that Dalhberg completely dismissed an affidavit that one of his law school friends composed to defend his side of the story. In addition, Goldman accused Dalhberg of playing upon the fact that he was a law student and undermining his intelligence.

'[Dahlberg] should've respected my student rights. I was hurt by the fact that he was so dismissive of my rights,' Goldman said. '[Student] concerns should have been at the top of his list.'

As Goldman had expected, after the hearing, he was still found responsible for the violations, but he was given the opportunity to send an appeal to Darren Portis, assistant director of University Apartments, which he did. Portis was also unavailable for comment.

Goldman was still frustrated by the outcome.

'[Portis] ignored all of my allegations and said that he was affirming [Dahlberg's] decision except for two things: he lowered my restitution from $250 to $200, for unmentioned reasons,' Goldman said. 'He amended Dave Dahlberg's university warning by removing the language for failure to follow fire code guidelines as well as care and use of facility guidelines. Then he amended my warning to state that I should adhere to university protocol for problems like this in the future.'

This prompted Goldman to push his appeal up to higher ranking housing officials. He contacted Thomas Tiberi, the senior associate director and general manager for University Apartments. Less than 24 hours after submitting his appeal, Tiberi dismissed it and confirmed Dahlberg's and Portis's decisions.

Tiberi stated that he is unable to comment on individual student issues, but reiterated the rules for overflowing toilets in the apartments.

'In order to protect the privacy of students, it is not our practice to comment on any individual student issue,' Tiberi said. 'Regarding our protocol for a situation involving a flood which an overflowing toilet causes, students are directed to contact staff immediately. During business hours they should call the respective complex office. After business hours they should contact the community assistant on duty.'

Goldman is upset at the UB official's reactions.

'The people higher up completely dismissing my appeals, I thought, was completely inappropriate and showed lack of attention to the incident,' Goldman said.

Following through

Goldman decided to take his appeal even further – to the offices of Dennis Black, vice president for student affairs, and President John B. Simpson.

Soon after taking that step, Goldman received an e-mail from Joseph Krakowiak, the director of University Residence Halls & Apartments, reversing Dahlberg's and Portis's decision.

This led Goldman to believe that Simpson and Black played a role in the decision. He applauded their efficiency and willingness to help.

'I'm so grateful to [Simpson] and [Black] for getting involved,' Goldman said. 'I'm glad they run UB, because they're great.'

Goldman pointed out that it's rare for students to win in a case involving housing. He said that there's one factor that set him apart from other students who are involved in a housing dispute.

'I saved every e-mail,' Goldman said. 'I kept all correspondence between me and housing which helped me to highlight the inconsistencies with regards to their charges to my account.'

Despite the long, drawn-out battle, Goldman said he wouldn't change anything he did in response to the situation.

'I could've just paid the $250 and got it done with, but if I did that, Dave Dahlberg would have thought it was OK to stick other students with unjustified bills,' Goldman said. 'By appealing it and going above his head, I would hope they would deal better with students in the future, especially undergraduates who might not be fully aware of their rights.'




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