Inquire. Learn. Reflect. Vandalize?

Steven Bushong

May 4 Memorial: a history of scratches and patches

Maintenance worker John Dixon works to remove scratches from the May 4 Memorial. The leftover marks will require a high-powered buffer to remove. TIM MAGAW | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

A 24.5-foot metallic scratch on the granite bench portion of the May 4 Memorial is the most visible and recent of the monument’s many blemishes.

The scrape, which Kent State Police said could have been caused by a skateboard, rollerblades or bike, appeared in early July.

On Thursday, after the scratch came to the university’s attention, a maintenance employee estimated the damage to be about $500.

The damage occurred when signs stating that skateboards, bikes and rollerblades should keep away from the area had not yet been reinstalled. The signs are taken down for the annual May 4 events.

Robert Misbrener, associate director of Campus Environment and Operations, said the immediate reinstallation of the signs was overlooked, but their absence probably didn’t increase the likelihood of damage.

“Anybody who would do any kind of riding or trick skating on a memorial is thinking incorrectly,” Misbrener said. “Whoever did that would have done that with or without the signs there.”

Crime prevention officer Alice Ickes said the damage is a result of carelessness and Nevertheless, police consider the damage vandalism. The scratch is the only reported vandalism at the site in the police department’s records, which date back to 2002.

Greg Goodhart, 57, of Livermore, Calif., visited the May 4 Memorial Monday afternoon with two friends.

“It’s an eyesore,” Goodhart said when he saw the scratch. “I’m thinking, ‘Why would people do this?'”

The visitor’s untrained eyes missed all the other unnatural marks in the memorial.

Areas the size of softballs where the granite was damaged and lost are filled in with compound and disguised with a paint mixture.

The mix, perfected several years ago, matches the brown, red and gray spots of the original carnelian granite, said university painter John Dixon. The granite is native to Italy.

Other sporadic scratches, punctures and chips mar the memorial. Dixon said not all marks are the result of reckless behavior, however. Weathering and even snow plows have contributed to the damage.

Memorial security

“All I once asked for is a security camera to be installed,” said Dixon. “For the little cost, all this could be prevented.”

Cameras were proposed by a student senator during the 2002-2003 school year, but the idea met resistance and was rejected.

Ickes said it may be time to revisit the idea.

“In the last few years, the use of cameras is much broader and the acceptance of it has increased,” she said. “It’s not as intrusive.”

Yet some people disagree.

“I know a lot of people go there to reflect,” said Stephanie Vincent, president of the May 4 Task Force. “It might be an invasion of privacy.”

Vincent also said she has doubts about whether cameras could actually ward off vandalism.

In other areas on campus prone to damage by skateboarders, metal pegs – which cost $15 to $25 each – have been drilled into surfaces. Grinding, when someone rides a skateboard sideways on the edge of a surface, is made difficult with the pegs.

But visitors to the May 4 Memorial, police and Campus Environment and Operations agree that adding such pegs to the memorial could do more harm than good.

“It would totally ruin the look of this,” Misbrener said. “It wasn’t even considered for that reason.”

Two post lights were added to the memorial in 2003, but not to prevent vandalism.

Rather, security for students walking from lecture halls to residence halls at night was the concern, said Jim Kurtz, manager of electric systems.

Michael Bruder, assistant director for architecture, said the lights are inherently preventative of vandalism, too.

Police patrol the area as routinely as they patrol the rest of the campus, Kent State Police Lt. Robert Nation said.

Ickes said those found skating on the memorial can be asked to leave.

Geoff Wexler, senior visual communication design major, said skateboarding on the memorial is a touchy subject.

He said a couple skaters recently came into Evolution Skate Shop on East Day Street, where he works, and said they rode on something marble.

The May 4 Memorial looks like marble, but it’s granite. Both materials are ideal for skating, Wexler said.

“It’s evident that skateboarders ride there,” he said. “It’s better to find something that doesn’t offend a lot of people.”

Wexler was quick to suggest, as police had, that the marks on the memorial could have been created by rollerblades or a bike.

University policy states skateboarding and other wheeled recreation is not permitted on special or artificial surfaces, which include the May 4 Memorial.

Despite policy, marks are visible on nearly every plate of the long bench, which is supposed to be used for sitting and reflection, according to the memorial’s designer.

“I guess it’s just trying to defy authority,” Vincent said. “It says on the memorial, ‘Inquire. Learn. Reflect.’ – I know a lot of people go there to do just that.

“It’s disrespectful.”

Dixon said he expects the damage to be fixed before fall semester begins.

Contact news editor Steven Bushong at [email protected].