Trees subjected to vandalism

Kevin Kolus

Damaged trees are shown near the Liquid Crystals Institute. PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER WHITE

Credit: John Proppe

Vandalism is a problem at Kent State, but it’s not just graffiti or trashing bathrooms.

Campus trees, flowers and other plants have been broken, uprooted and trampled.

Michael McDonald, director of campus environment and operations, said current damage to landscaping is unprecedented.

“In all the years I have been here, I have never seen vandalism directed at living things,” he said. “It completely stuns me.”

Grounds Manager Heather White said many instances of ruined plant life have already happened this semester, which she finds “very disheartening.”

“It’s something I can’t wrap my head around,” she said. “You’re killing something that could grow up and turn into something really spectacular for this campus.”

During the summer semester, flowers near the Michael Schwartz Center were neatly dug out two days in a row. Ginkgo trees, which are slow-growing and cost more than $120, have been snapped in half.

“This is a great campus,” McDonald said, “but it is disappointing for someone to snap a 3-inch tree.”

White said many “intangibles” go into growing trees, such as constant watering and upkeep. The man-hours spent on trees is what makes them significant to campus grounds.

“People should know the value of the plantings,” McDonald said. He calls the trees “the campus canopy” and said they contribute to the distinctiveness of Kent State.

“That’s what sets us apart from any state university in Ohio,” he said. “The large treed areas; the open green areas.”

With 30 years at Kent State, including work at the Police Department during the ’70s, McDonald said this type of vandalism is new, and no one has been held accountable for the crimes.

“I don’t recall people walking around and snapping trees,” he said. “I guess my experience would tell me it’s a small group of people doing this. They have an issue . We need to get them help.”

White blamed the damage on intoxicated or indifferent students.

“My theory,” she said, “you have students who are drinking, or are careless or showing off.”

White said future cases of vandalism should be taken to judicial affairs and authorities are expected to “deal with it harshly.”

If someone causes $500 or more in damages to landscaping, police can charge him or her with criminal damaging, Kent Police Chief John Peach said. The 4th degree felony would put offenders in jail for at least six months and fine them least $750.

McDonald and White ask that all students who witness vandalism report the incident. McDonald can be reached at [email protected]. White can be reached at [email protected].

Contact building and grounds reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].