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Flex residents refusing nail removal faced eviction, now looking for compromise

What started as a housing policy dispute led to calls to parents and a letter to the university president for three Flex Apartment residents early this semester.

After calls to their parents from Dean of Students Jeff Bolster, seniors Gabbi Noa and junior Kasey Graves found out they faced eviction Sept. 30 when they chose not to take nails out of their wall after being asked to do so by Resident Director Jeff Allen during House and Safety Inspections. Bolster also called senior Stephanie Haas’ debate coach, Skip Rutledge.

While Gabbi’s mother Karen Noa declined to comment for this story, Noa’s brother, Daniel, said that she informed him of Gabbi’s potential eviction, so he called Gabbi.

“Mom told me that the dean said that if you didn’t comply, you would be forced to move off campus,” he said via text to Gabbi.

The dispute began with an error on Residential Life’s room inventory report for Flex, which was addressed by Residential Assistants at the All-Hall Meeting in the first couple weeks of school that stated under “Appropriate Decor” that “nothing [could be] hung with anything greater than 1 inch finishing nails.” However, according to the RAs, all residential halls have a “no nail, no hole” policy.

The report requires students in each hall to document and sign for existing damages to their apartment and states the damage fees and rules.

Senior Gabbi Noa read the document allowing nails on move-in day, and began decorating. Already having put the nails in the wall, the residents disregarded the policy mentioned at the All Hall Meeting.

After receiving a $15 fine per roommate for roughly 70 one-inch nails in the wall by Jeff Allen during Health and Safety Inspections, they were given a week to take them down.

Allen said he was unable to comment due to privacy laws.

Noa met with Bolster to discuss the contradiction and the fine. Noa said Bolster informed her the report was not a contract and that the fees would remain. Noa said that Bolster treated her unprofessionally and that led her to write a letter of complaint to President Brower.

In an email response on Oct. 3 to Noa obtained by the Point Weekly, Brower specified the report’s purpose.

“This inventory [report] is not a lease agreement or contract that binds you to the room or specifies the mutual obligations of you and the university in regard to a specified term of time in the room at a particular cost,” Brower said to Noa via email. “It serves to acknowledge the room’s condition and your receipt of and responsibility of the key you are issued and any damage of the room.”

The “no nail, no hole” policy is not stated in the 2013-2014 PLNU Student Handbook. While additional regulations can be instated by PLNU, they must be posted online and sent to students via email, according to the PLNU website. The online policy also states that parents can be involved regarding FERPA, an educational records act.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education states that “if the student is required to adhere to the rules of conduct as if the handbook were a contract, the university has some obligation to adhere to it in the same way. Many judges would not take kindly to a college’s effort to escape its obligations by claiming that its apparent promise is not really binding.”

After multiple requests by the Point Weekly, Bolster also declined to be interviewed, citing privacy concerns.

Noa said that Bolster told her when she pointed out the contradiction between the report and the meeting that it was a “fake contract; it doesn’t actually mean anything and that they’re not legally bound to it.” She also said that Bolster said “Mistakes happen…It shouldn’t have happened but it did, and bottom line, you need to take your nails out.”

Prior to appeal deadline, Bolster called the residents’ parents and Rutledge, the Director of Forensics and debate coach to Haas and Graves.

Noa asked Bolster about the calls in their official appeal meeting. She said he told her they were “allowed to call the people who are personally connected and have influence in your life during whatever problems.”

Noa and Haas submitted a letter to Brower outlining their disappointment in what they said was Bolster’s unprofessionalism and inconsistencies.

“The treatment of the two students in this meeting was unprofessional and did not uphold a supportive, Christian environment. There are several examples of this unprofessional behavior that left both students feeling uncomfortable and demeaned,” the letter stated.

Brower told the Point Weekly that he responded to the students but typically won’t comment on these matters because he hands them over to the correct department.

Another instance of housing contract disputes involved Abigail Wulah, a senior who faced eviction for shot glasses and empty wine bottles that she was going to use for a craft project in her apartment this summer.

“Jeff Allen had told me that by having those bottles, I’m in breach of my contract to stay there for the summer,” Wulah said.

She said she was breaking a contract she never signed when Bolster apologized for a miscommunication.

According to Noa, Haas, and Graves, the fine has been repealed and Residential Life will provide cork boards and alternative wall hanging options for free. All nails have been removed from the wall.

Brower sent another email to Noa Oct. 17 saying Caye Smith, vice president for student development, would assess the conduct of Bolster and will be in contact with her.