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(February 7, 2002, Gazette)

Scrawl on the wall

Jeffrey PardyHoles in the wall, phallic symbols sketched on murals, and the writings in the bathroom stalls. Which one of these things is not like the other? Which one of these things is not the same? Trick question.

Technically, they’re all variations of the same thing: vandalism.

At first glance it may seem like vandalism is a minor problem at MUN. It’s not like we, as students, have to pay a “vandalism fee” every semester. St. John’s, as far as cities go, is an extremely safe place in which vandalism seems almost nonexistent. However, by taking a closer look at the halls and classrooms around MUN, one starts to understand the large volume of this very real problem. The desks in the Arts Building are filled with a surreal conglomerate of monsters and logos as fast as the custodial staff can wash them off.

An example of the result of vandalism on the St. John’s campus.
An example of the result of vandalism on the St. John’s campus.

The Munnels are full of “tags,” or people’s names or nicknames written on locker doors and walls. As for the bathrooms around campus, any random stall is bound to be covered with cryptic scrawl consisting of poetry, phone numbers, and sex-related images and writings. Then there are the stickers. They’re all over the lockers, walls, and advertising posters. This, too, is a form of vandalism. Any defacement or destruction of another’s property without consent is considered vandalism.

Why do people vandalize? Well, it could be a way for someone to say that they have been to a place. Perhaps it’s a middle finger to the establishment, an action motivated by frustration at the university, tuition fees, and the pressures of student life. But what do you think?

I asked students what their opinion on the matter was, and if they saw it as a problem. Jeff Summers, a third year German and French major, said, “the colours on these lockers is vandalism. Look at it, it’s damn ugly!”

Perhaps vandals are trying to beautify the campus by adding their own personal touches. Maybe the university should consider a paint job. Andrew Bonia, an English major, quipped, “vandalism here is ‘Johnny loves Marie’ while in other places in Canada it’s creative pictures. There’s a line to be drawn I guess, but most of it is destructive.”

Perhaps the university should ask students to step forward and add their own artwork to the walls of MUN. Judging by the images in the Munnels, there hasn’t been a new mural since 1970.

Trina Chiasson, a biology major, said, “it is absolutely horrendous to go into the bathrooms and locker rooms which have markings all over the wall. It’s just like being in junior high. I think at the university level you should be more mature.”

Mark Connoly, a math major, agrees with Trina, stating that vandalism “(downgrades) the quality of the school and the buildings in the school. If you’re paying this place for your education, why would you want to vandalize it?”

On the other hand, Christian Bryant, Computer Science, suggested, “It’s a part of society, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Then there are views similar to those of John Matcham, a second-year political science major, which suggests it’s a way to go against the grain. “I agree with some forms of vandalism, as they are a way of jamming other, perhaps mainstream, ideas. As for stickers that promote reducing tuition fees, they are attention getters. It depends on the eye of the beholder and the context in which it is written. If it has a real message behind it, I don’t mind as much.”

Perhaps there is nothing we can do about vandalism. Based on the responses I received, it seems that most people are against this crime because it makes their living space ugly and cryptic. Perhaps only a small minority of students, or people that aren’t students at all, engage in this practice. Vandalism could be a clue to trends in society. Vandalism may be a sign that students are unhappy with fees, grading practices, and other things that they have little control over. Is this a cry for help? Maybe there’ll be an answer one day, scrawled all over the walls.