Exit sign theft epidemic hits UVM

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By Guy Page

Thefts and vandalism of building exit signs have become epidemic at UVM. In an effort to stop the trend and let bygones be bygones, UVM authorities will hold an Exit Sign Takeback Day Wednesday, April 6.

The following letter from the Department of Residential Life was sent to UVM students this week:

On Wednesday, April 6th, ResLife will be holding an Exit sign take back day. On this day, you can drop off any Exit sign you may have in your possession at your main desk – no questions asked.

When: Wednesday April 6, 2022

Where: Your complex main desk

What: Drop off any UVM Exit sign you have

Why: To avoid a $500 fine

Under the Department of Residential Life Housing Terms and Conditions, possession of an Exit sign (or any other UVM property) may be fined up to $500 dollars per violation, per student, in addition to other appropriate sanctions.

This year our campus community has struggled with an epidemic of stolen and broken Exit signs. The cost of these damages has been staggering. The health and safety implications of missing or broken exit signs cannot be understated; it puts lives at risk during an emergency. 

In addition, these actions have a detrimental impact on our Custodial and Facilities staff members who are responsible for cleaning and repairing damage. I have heard directly from staff members that this repeated damage makes them feel demoralized and disrespected. In addition to the cost of signage, it can take up to an hour and 1/2 to repair or replace a broken Exit sign – time that could be spent addressing other student maintenance concerns and positively impacting our community.

Tampering with life safety devices is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct, a violation of the Housing Contract, against the law in some cases, but most importantly, it puts the safety of our community at risk.  

I was recently made aware of an incident in which 10 Exit signs were found within a double room. Based on current policy, we may fine the occupants of that room $500 per resident, per exit sign – that would be a total of $5,000 a student.

Fining students is not our goal. Ensuring your safety and maintaining an environment of mutual respect is. I would like to take this moment to provide you with clarity on the approach we have taken in recent weeks and will be taking moving forward. 

  • Any student caught tampering with an Exit sign or other Life Safety device will be referred to the Center for Student Conduct, and, in appropriate cases, UVM Police Services.
  • Any student found in possession of an Exit sign in their room – regardless of how it was obtained – will be fined $500 for each sign/per room occupant. This is a Terms and Conditions fine and cannot be appealed.

If you would like to avoid fines for Exit signs you currently have in your possession, please take them to your main desk on Wednesday April 6, 2022 – no questions asked.   

Residential Life will closely monitor damage to Life Safety devices and Exit signs during the remainder of this semester. If there continues to be excessive damage within the residence halls, we will return to group billing of these violations. Based on the volume of damage up to this point – group damage billing would result in hundreds of dollars in fines per student this academic year.

Please join me in honoring our commitment to keeping each other safe and respecting the place in which we live and learn moving forward.

Kevin J Hytten, Ed.D., Interim Executive Director

Department of Residential Life

UVM isn’t the only university with this problem. In November 2020 the University of Wisconsin at Madison recovered at least 17 exit signs stolen by two college roommates who, the local police deadpanned, “had a faulty exit strategy.” Oswego State, part of the SUNY system, had a similar rash of thefts in 2011.

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