Students seek payment for lost furniture

Kate Bigam

A handful of Kent State students said they have been duped by a deconstruction company contracted by the university to tear down Terrace Hall.

When Dynasty Deconstruction prepared to demolish the residence hall last May, president Keith Ludwig and his workers put all of the hall’s furniture on sale. Dressers, bed frames and desks were offered to the public for low prices, with half the proceeds going to Dynasty and the other half to the university.

Students who lived out of town were given the option of leaving their furniture in Kent over the summer and retrieving it upon their return to school this fall.

But junior finance major Cheryl Bonifay said when she and her roommate, Katie McNamara, went to pick up their purchases, they found Terrace Hall gone – and all the furniture apparently gone with it.

“While it was only $30 we each spent, it is still money we are both out, and I’m wondering how many other students this happened to,” Bonifay said.

Bonifay and McNamara tried unsuccessfully to contact Keith Ludwig and various university officials. The only official McNamara was able to reach was James Zentmeyer, associate director of residence services, who estimated he and his secretary received a half a dozen student complaints related to the Terrace sale. Zentmeyer then forwarded all complaints to the Office of the University Architect.

“They let the company come in here and do this, and I’m disappointed that Kent State would let something so shady go on,” Bonifay said.

Ludwig, who could not be reached by phone, said in an e-mail that he is seeking names of students who never received their furniture.

“We are working to get everyone taken care of,” he wrote, declining to elaborate further.

Brett Friedman, a senior advertising major, said he paid $20 for a chest of drawers he never received. Ludwig told him Dynasty Deconstruction would mail a reimbursement check if he e-mailed them his address. Although Friedman said he sent Ludwig his address in mid-September, he has yet to receive compensation, and the phone number he reached Ludwig at has since been disconnected.

Friedman then decided to contact Student Legal Services, who advised him to file a report with the campus police department. An officer told Friedman that for $50, he could file with the court of claims, but since he only lost $20, Friedman declined. Instead, the officer referred him to University Counsel, Kent State’s legal branch.

Chris Sestak, staff attorney for Student Legal Services, is currently working with Friedman to gather names of other students who say they never received furniture from Dynasty Deconstruction’s sale in hopes that he can help them find justice.

“The university doesn’t believe they’re directly responsible because they had a contract with another company,” said Sestak, who has also been in contact with University Counsel to come to an agreement to help any affected students. “God knows they chase down all the other 19-year-olds who have a beer, so maybe they can do something positive with this.”

Michael Bruder, assistant director of architecture and engineering in the university architect’s office, said the university is doing everything possible to resolve the issue.

“(Ludwig and Dynasty Deconstruction are) an outside company, so I want to make it clear that the university did not intentionally take students’ money and not give them what was rightfully due to them,” he said.

Bruder said his office received a few student complaints at the time of sale, but he was under the impression that Ludwig made things right with his customers.

The Office of the University Architect is now working with attorneys to remedy the situation, but Bruder would not comment further on what steps the university might take. He encouraged any students who did not receive their furniture from the sale to contact the Office of the University Architect.

Although Friedman only lost $20 (his friend Lindsey lost more than $100), he said he is disappointed in the lack of interest university officials have shown in the case so far.

“It’s just kind of shady that it’s like this, and the university doesn’t want to take any responsibility for this,” he said. “I’d like to get my money back, but I don’t know that I expect it at this point.”

Contact enterprise reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].