The Suite’s TV Is Broken: A Columbia Prisoner’s Dilemma

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The email in question

Earlier in the semester, Bwogger Isabel Sepúlveda got an email from her residence hall director for information about the broken TV in her floor lounge. Not knowing who committed this act of “floor vandalism,” she didn’t have any information to share, but she wondered, what would happen if you did? She put what she learned in her single political science class to the test, and this is the result.

It happens before winter break. You and your roommate are messing around in your suite’s lounge, drinking away the impending doom while staring down the barrel of half a dozen midterms and messing around when you playfully shove him too hard and he goes flying into the TV. He’s fine but it sounds like something else cracked. With a quick glance, everything looks okay so you both head to bed without at second thought.

The next morning, everything from the night before is kind of fuzzy and you’ve almost managed to put the incident out of your mind entirely when one of your suitemates invites you to a Netflix binge outside of your respective rooms for once. She tries to turn on the TV, only to discover that it has cracked from the inside. She calls over the RA, who takes a look and promises to put in a maintenance request as soon as possible. They both wonder how this happened and who could have done such a thing. You try your best to commiserate and not out your roommate on the spot. Eventually, you all leave for break and everyone forgets it even happened. The TV is replaced and still, no one uses the lounge when you return. Life is good.

That is, until about two weeks after classes start again, when you receive The Email.

The Email, from your hall director, informs that according to Columbia policy, if they are unable to identify those responsible for breaking the TV, everyone in the suite will be responsible for the cost. You click the link in the email to find that the TV costs $800 to replace. Even broken up between the 14 people who live in your suite, that’s still almost $60 per person.

Before you can begin to process this information, your roommate comes to you panicked. He was just talking to the RA, who plans on meeting with everyone in the suite to see if anyone has any information about the incident. In your shock, you let slip that if someone does, you’ll both owe Columbia almost a thousand dollars. You both vow that you won’t say a word when the time comes.

The RA stops you on your way to class and asks if you have a moment to talk. Without thinking, you agree and she sits you down so you’re facing the device in question. Without preamble, she asks, “Your probably saw the email from this morning. Do you know anything about the whole TV situation?”

You took introduction to American politics last semester, so you exactly what kind of situation this is: a classic prisoner’s dilemma. Essentially, you have three options.

  1. Say nothing: live with the $60 fine and vow to never drink again
  2. Fess up: possibly be stuck with a $400 fine but spare yourself from the possible wrath of your suitemates
  3. Tell her your roommate did it: pay $0 and sleep on the floor of your friend’s John Jay single for the rest of the semester

Option 1 is the safest bet, but you have no idea what your roommate will do. He has to know the best option for both of you is the stay quiet and save yourselves $340. But then again, he’s not the most logical person you’ve ever met. If he blames you, you could end up taking the hit for the entire replacement; honestly, you wouldn’t put it past him. You don’t have $800 to spare, that’s for sure.

Your RA asks again, breaking you out of your thoughts. “Anything at all?”

What should you do? You’ve lived with him for over a semester and while you’ve hung out a few times, like that night in question. But while he might not have killed you in your sleep yet, can you trust him with this?

In the end, you just shake your head and try your best not to run out of there. It’s better this way and, if he does blame you,  you’ll just email the hall director the real story and make his life hell for the rest of the semester.

The Email in question via Bwog Staff

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Students who break or damage property should pay 100% of the costs. If this rule were put in place you would see a lot more respect for common property and a lot less damage.

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