Scrawled in black permanent marker, the message “Fuck the G.O.P.” appeared on the recently re-painted New College overpass in one of the many fresh cases of vandalism drawing the public eye to public property.
The very same message afflicted multiple scenes around campus, including a sign near Heiser and behind a staircase in Pei second court.
“[Vandalism] comes in spurts,” commented Physical Plant’s Director of Facilities Management and Construction Bob Mason. “There’s no rhyme or reason or pattern to it … it seems to come and go.”
“The one thing that we did notice was when the politician … Michelle Bachman came, probably three days in a row, there were graffiti everyday — messages relevant to her visit,” Mason said.
The arrival of Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachman in Sarasota on Aug. 28th created quite the stir in the New College community. Many students went to her political rally to protest with signs and chants in a radical display of opposition. One anti-Bachman supporter, however, was met with cries of disgust on the student forum when a graffiti scribbling near the bay was found reading: “Rape Michelle Bachman.”
Lieutenant Michael Kessie of campus police also noted a “political overtone” to the many graffiti messages.
“That was on the 29th,” he said. “[The graffiti] had some basic referrals to Bachman, Scott and the G.O.P.”
On Aug. 30th, the night of the redistricting hearing, campus police arrested a man in parking lot #2 near Sudakoff. The non-affiliated man had smashed the window of a visiting person’s car and ripped the front of a bumper off another car. The man was charged with burglary to a vehicle and criminal mischief.
“Although the two people whose vehicles were damaged attended the event, it doesn’t appear that the guy who did it had anything to with politics,” Kessie asserted. “I think he was just intoxicated.”
An act of minor vandalism occurred earlier in the week when a sheet reading “Be New” was found draped over the 3-D Four Winds sculpture outside the new Academic Center.
“Why did they do that?” Mason asked. “A brand new building, new sculpture — as we [Physical Plant] took it down, we noticed there was spray paint on the sculpture.”
When cleaning the acts of delinquency, Mason explained the labor usually depends on the surface and substance used to mark the graffiti. Normally maintenance will paint over defaced walls, but the overpass usually has to be scrubbed. Checking his most recent records, Mason estimated it costs roughly $60 every time Physical Plant dispatches a painter to cover up graffiti messages.
“I mean, how many [monetary] resources could we redirect if we took care of this place?” Mason asked rhetorically. “We could do something else [constructive] with it … I’m sure the science department would like some new equipment or something.”
The janitorial or Physical Plant members typically alerts campus police when discovering marked or damaged school property, though anyone can file a work order and campus police encourage students and faculty to call in any observed damages or offenses.
“It’s like someone coming into your house and damaging your home,” Mason said. “This is where you live. This is your home. Even if you live off campus, this is still your home, your educational home and that’s why we want people to report things when they see something to us.”
Mason confirmed that the two biggest crimes at New College are vandalism and bike theft, though he did not feel the recent events marked a statistical climb in the crimes.
“I don’t think it was a major increase,” he said. “I think what happened is the person or persons who did the most recent [graffiti] did it in places — like the Heiser sign over here — that were just kind of noticed more.”
Regardless of the frequency of vandalism, Mason and the members of Physical Plant upheld that students should redirect harmful acts against school property into constructive exploits that can improve the community as a whole.
“All of us — people who work here, who teach, who go here — we all spend a lot of time here and rather than be destructive, we should respect and take ownership in our [campus],” Mason said.