Commons Plates Vandalized, Instances of Vandalism Found Around Campus

Three plates, engraved with vulgar messages and profanities, were found in Paresky Commons last week. Employees in the dish room discovered the first plate with engraved profanity when it came through the conveyer belt. Two more plates with similar messages were discovered the following day, according to Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life. The person responsible for the vandalism remains unknown. Murphy said that although he will review footage from security cameras placed in different parts of Paresky, the chances of identifying the culprit this way is highly unlikely. The black lettering, which appeared to be done by an engraving machine, was about two and half inches tall, according to an e-mail sent to the community by Murphy. Murphy sent the first e-mail to the faculty on Sunday, March 3rd, soliciting their help in finding the perpetrator. The student body received a similar e-mail on Monday, March 4th. If caught, the offender will be disciplined for destruction of school property, as well as for violating the rule of decency and respect for the community and other people, according to Murphy. Murphy speculates that motives for this act of vandalism could be shock value or hatred for the school. He doubts that the messages were directed at members of Paresky. “There have been things written on the bathroom walls that have been around forever, but this seems to be another level up where to destroy something, someone had to go out of their way to take the plates out, somehow print [the words] and bring it back,” Murphy said. “It is more than just a moment of being mad. I even feel sad for whoever did it because I can’t imagine what drives someone to have that level of anger,” he continued. Acts of vandalism, especially graffiti, have been an ongoing problem for the Art Department and librarians at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL). Library staff members discover profanities, slang and vulgar images written and drawn on the basement whiteboards and chalkboards weekly, according to Jeffrey Marzluft, Library Associate Director for Instructional Services. Wooden desks in all parts of the library are etched in with similar graffiti as well. “The frequency or intensity of the messages do somewhat coincide with the academic cycle. When the kids are really stressed, we are likely to find more stuff written,” Marzluft said. “I don’t see graffiti in other buildings as to the same extent we see here in the library. This bothers me personally because we go out of our way to be a student-centered area and in return for the comfort the building gets abused,” continued Marzluft. Additionally, several weeks ago, someone kicked a hole about two feet wide in a wall inside the stacks in the OWHL. Drawings or carvings of vulgar messages have also been discovered on walls and desks in art classrooms as well. “Vandalism is an ongoing problem that appears to ‘flare up’ every few years. Not everyone reports vandalism—in classroom, dorms, classrooms so it is hard to define its breadth,” wrote Emily Trespas, Instructor in Art, in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “Personally, in the last 13 years I’ve taught at Phillips, I have empowered my students to assist us—as a community—to help monitor, prevent and intervene in such disrespectful thoughtless acts. We can all lead by modeling positive behavior and not just with intervening acts of defacing property,” continued Trespas. Murphy, Marzluft and Trespas believe that the fundamental mindset of the community, especially of students, needs to be changed in order to fully address the issue of vandalism. Murphy said that the plate incidents indicate a “culture of anonymity” that is accepted in the Andover community. “I don’t really want to get into cameras and the business of having to watch everyone all the time. We want a student body that can handle the responsibility and independence that is offered to them as being a part of a student here,” he said. Marzluft said that even adults on campus have turned a blind-eye to issues generated by anonymity. However, he believes that the change has to be initiated from the students in order to truly address the issue of vandalism. “I don’t think that it goes through the students’ heads that what they are doing, the graffiti and carving [that] is destructive, but it should. It requires a culture shift in the student body,” Marzluft said.