A UCSB Associated Students retreat ended in thousands of dollars in damage to a private villa rented with student fees, a Los Osos property owners’ representative said.
Lance Heck of Morrocco Method International — the corporation that owns Villa Antonio in Los Osos, Calif. — alleges that the students trashed the rental home, causing major damage to the property. Heck also claims that after the group left the retreat, held the weekend of Jan. 9, the company found a significant number of empty alcohol containers at the villa. Furthermore, Heck alleges that university administrators are aware of what occurred at the rental and have failed to respond to the owners.
“We’ve already had a really big problem with the senior staff denying what happened at the rental. It’s been all the way up to the Chancellor,” Heck said. “The damages were massive, thousands of dollars of damage.”
The Offices of the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor refused to comment on the matter. The Office of Student Affairs did not return calls as of press time.
Heck claims A.S. signed a contract to stay at Villa Antonio — which rental Web sites list at $750 per night — under supervision of a chaperone, an agreement he says the organization did not abide by.
“Our concern is that it was rented under false pretenses, and it’s a false contract,” Heck said. “The school staff employees signed the contract — they wrote the check — now they’re in denial and not responding to any of the damages.”
At last week’s A.S. Legislative Council meeting, members held a closed session to discuss what they deemed “pending litigation.” All members of the council refused to clarify the topic of discussion.
After inquiries, A.S. Executive Director Marisela Marquez issued a statement yesterday on behalf of A.S. confirming the organization had been contacted regarding the retreat.
“On behalf of Associated Students, [A.S. President] Charlie Arreola and I want to be as responsive to you as possible; and assure you that we are taking this matter seriously,” Marquez wrote. “Associated Students administration and the university administration were contacted by Morrocco Method International with issues regarding the rental. From the time that we were first contacted, until now, staff, students and administration are investigating these allegations. We appreciate your patience in following up on this matter until all allegations are fully investigated and clarified.”
Heck said the owners plan to hold UCSB accountable for the situation.
“The owners are going to follow this to a national level,” Heck said. “They are furious to think that a school of this caliber would actually lie, deceive and write a contract saying they had chaperones — and our company spoke to some of the chaperones — and allow this to happen.”
Additionally, Heck said that all the damages have been photographed and written documentation has been obtained from all parties, such as housekeepers and electricians, who had to deal with the damage.
“We found massive amounts of alcohol. It would exceed over 10 quarts of vodka and tons of cases of beer,” Heck said. “The villa was trashed. The owners are furious. Our main concern is what, what if one of these students hazed or died and got in an accident? … We never dreamt they would do such a horrendous thing to the rental.”
However, according to Corey Huber, A.S. external vice president of Statewide Affairs from 2008-09, this isn’t the first time A.S. has found themselves in this situation. Last year, he said, A.S. was forced to apologize for irresponsible behavior involving alcohol during a retreat with other UCSB student organizations.
“Long story short, something very similar happened last year,” Huber, a fourth-year student currently unaffiliated with A.S. said, “We had to apologize to … not only to the facility’s staff, but A.S. students and UCSB staff and other students involved with other organizations.”
Huber said A.S. staff and the university administration facilitated a number of efforts last year to ensure that A.S. members would not commit this type of error again.
“We were very much proactive with it, and we weren’t sweeping it under the carpet,” Huber said. “We had formal contracts with [Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs] Michael Young. … We were expected to come up with a plan about being proactive about combating the alcoholism on campus and ensure that our peers didn’t lose their trust.”
Despite last year’s missteps, A.S. finds itself addressing allegations anew. The response, Heck said, has been less than proactive.
“We have documented everything, because Mr. Morrocco is not fooling around,” Heck said. “This place was rented under fraudulent conditions. They lied. The drinking orgy was unbelievable. We photographed all the bottles, all the damage, we’ve written letters. We’re all shocked that the staff of UCSB would allow this all to happen and sweep it under the carpet.”