One of the most difficult issues to cope with as a Floor Governor is the increasing number of vandalism incidents our campus has seen over the course of not only this semester but also over the course of the past two years.
Merriam-Webster defines vandalism as follows: “Willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property.” Sociologist Stanley Cohen goes further by breaking vandalism down into six different categories:
1. Acquisitive vandalism (looting and petty theft).
2. Tactical vandalism (to advance some end other than acquiring money or property – such as breaking a window to be arrested and get a bed for the night in a police cell).
3. Ideological vandalism (carried out to further an explicit ideological cause or deliver a message).
4. Vindictive vandalism (for revenge).
5. Play vandalism (damage resulting from children’s games).
6. Malicious vandalism (damage caused by a violent outpouring of diffuse frustration and rage that often occurs in public settings).
Connecticut College has been affected by the first, fourth, fifth and sixth categories, as far as we are concerned. We can further break these four categories down into subtypes—intentional vandalism and non-intentional vandalism. Non-intentional vandalism is when you decide to swing on an exit sign and, not properly estimating its durability, break it; or when you accidentally spill a drink and forget to clean it up. Intentional vandalism is when you are in an overly energetic state of mind, decide that it would be hilarious to break an exit sign and do so, or when you pour out a drink in the middle of the hallway because you do not live there and don’t care about whether or not the hallway is clean. Both of these types of incidents and all of their variations have had a profound effect on Connecticut College not just in a financial sense, but also by affecting the well-being of the residential community. We would like to first address the financial effects and share some statistics.
At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, incidents of vandalism cost the student body around $50,000. The following year, this number had increased to around $75,000. As of November 15, 2012, the number of vandalism incidents over the whole semester is 223, whereas exactly one year ago, the number was only 116. If this number continues to increase at this rate, the student body will pay roughly $150,000 in vandalism expenses at the end of the academic year. Depending on where you live on campus, you may have to pay hundreds of dollars in vandalism fees. While some students come from a wealthy enough background to pay for these fees without a problem, many of us cannot afford these extra expenses. Each of us has had residents come up to us and express how difficult it will be for them and their families to pay this extra charge on top of the charges for tuition, textbooks, transportation and living expenses.
While we cannot deny the seriousness of vandalism’s consequences, there are much deeper issues concerning what these incidents say about student character at Connecticut College. We are fortunate enough to go to a school with an honor code, a school where the administration gives us certain liberties that students at other schools couldn’t even fathom. Yet every day we see little things that represent the general demise of respect for this honor code and for this institution of learning. There is a campus-wide sense of entitlement that since many of us pay so much money to go here we have the right to treat the campus as we wish without regard for all of the opportunities it has given us. We often choose, in varying degrees of severity, to abuse the freedoms we have. We manipulate the way the honor code works instead of rightfully treating it as our one common creed.
Vandalizing a wall, a hallway, a door, a window or any other property of the college is as much of an honor code violation as cheating on an exam. It shows an utter lack of respect for our school and our peers. It undermines the fact that the honor code is a privilege and not a right; just as going to Conn is a privilege and not a right.
Some specific acts are particularly infuriating. The second floor of Freeman has had toilet seats broken off and tossed on the floor at least five times this semester. In Johnson, people have been constantly breaking exit signs, which cost $185 to replace. All over campus there is broken glass, ripped down posters, unwarranted fire drills, vomit in the sink, on the floor, in the shower, on the sidewalk and dried alcohol festering outside of our doors, with rarely any student doing anything to clean any of it up. People have urinated in the hallway, broken lights and done idiotic things with fire extinguishers. When these things happen, the dorm becomes unsafe and unsanitary. It smells horrendous, it looks shameful and no one wants to be a part of such a putrid living environment.
One more aspect of this issue that we would like to address is that the custodians clean up this mess if the people responsible do not. One might think that a custodian’s job is all-encompassing, and that a routine mopping of the floor is as tolerable to them as is picking half-full beer cans out of a toilet filled with vomit, or any other of the aforementioned scenarios. Fuck that. The custodians help us keep the dorm clean, but it is not their job to tend to incidents of the most despicable nature. It is our job as matriculated students to prevent these incidents from happening in the first place. Not only will taking preventative measures against vandalism help the school start to come out of the anarchic rut it is currently in, but it is also a lovely way to thank our custodians for taking out our trash, making the bathrooms smell nice, and everything else that they do that makes our lives easier.
As members of the Residential Education and Living staff, we put forth a vast amount of effort to promote a healthy and positive environment for our houses. We also invest time and the school’s money into our houses so that our residents share a great experience and learn to appreciate the opportunities that Connecticut College offers to its students. It feels degrading when students pull these acts of vandalism in our dorms. You disrespect the effort, dedication and time we have spent trying to provide a pristine living environment.
We ask all of you to take these thoughts into consideration. Speak and act out against these atrocities. Tell someone if you saw something wrong, or encourage the responsible party to come forth and own up to his or her wrongdoing. It is only through such self-governance that this college will once again take flight and restore its full dignity. It is only through individual action and protest against the bad that this college can truly be defined by honor. •