Campus vandalism hitting students in their wallets

William Schertz

Common vandalism on campus has been from skateboards scratching the rails. Campus Environment and Operations is beginning to replace damaged handrails with customized double-sided handrails that contain bars, which prevent skateboarding.

Credit: Andrew popik

People see it every day at Kent State. Students can find it in the bathrooms, in their classes and on hand rails — vandalism.

And its presence is costing students big bucks. 

Michael McDonald, director of Campus Environment and Operations, estimated that vandalism costs the university about $100,000 annually.

This cost affects the amount students are paying in tuition and other fees as well. 

“Vandalism is a waste of everybody’s money, and it doesn’t solve a thing,” McDonald said. 

Sophomore history major Joan Kendall-Sperry doesn’t think it’s fair that her tuition goes up because of vandalism. 

“If vandalism went down, then (the university’s) expenses would go down, and cost would go down,” she said. “It’s common sense.” 

Sophomore business major Megan Phillips also said she is irritated that vandalism is driving up student costs.

“It sucks because people who are already struggling to make ends meet and still get an education will have to work harder because someone else messed up,” Phillips said.

McDonald said most of the vandalism on campus is in the form of graffiti caused by students and outside visitors writing or carving derogatory words and symbols into walls.

Broken windows and excessive littering also are common at the university. 

McDonald pointed out that a large portion of vandalism damage costs are the result of skateboard damage from local juveniles grinding campus railings with the bottom of their boards. 

“The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) says that rails must have a certain smoothness,” McDonald said. “We’ve had to replace one handrail with a new one that is skateboard resistant.” 

McDonald said that these customized rails will eventually replace other damaged rails on campus.

He also said the university experienced a new type of vandalism earlier this year when six saplings were snapped or uprooted near Centennial Court. 

“I’ve seen inanimate objects kicked and dented and broken, but what’s that all about?” McDonald asked. “It’s a random type of vandalism I’ve not seen before.” 

He said seven to nine trees were destroyed. Each tree cost the university about $300 in damages, which includes labor to remove the dead trees. 

While $100,000 seems like a lot for vandalism damages, this does not include the cost for residence hall vandalism, which adds several thousand dollars to university expenses each year. 

“There’s not a building on campus that is vandalism-free,” said Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services. “The students living on campus are the ones who are paying for it.” 

Joseph said she has seen a variety of problems with vandalism in the residence halls, most of which occurred during the winter and early spring. 

“This time of year we seem to see more vandalism,” she said. “I think it has to do with being stuck inside and not being able to get out as much.” 

Joseph said since coming here, she has seen graffiti, trash in the hallways, a broken elevator control panel, ripped up bulletin boards, missing room number plates, flooding and a torn lounge sofa in Koonce Hall, to name a few things. 

Tommy Leonard, resident assistant and sophomore advertising major, said he has seen several problems this year in his residence hall alone. 

“There was one incident where these girls came down from the other floor and vandalized some of my residents’ rooms,” he said. “They threw toilet paper, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise all over the place. They turned it into a condiment station basically.” 

Leonard also said a paper towel dispenser was ripped down in a bathroom, and his floor’s water fountain was ripped off. 

Joseph said alcohol is directly involved in many of these vandalism cases, noting that most problems they find typically occur between Thursday and Saturday nights.

“A lot of my friends complain about their dorms being trashed when people come in drunk,” said Maria Saporito, freshman interior design major. 

Joseph said other students do it simply out of lack of respect for the community. 

“People have a variety of different reasons for not caring,” she said. 

Joseph said many other students on campus appear frustrated as well.  

Residence Services sent out a survey to students regarding living on campus. On one question about students’ respect for their living environment, nearly 70 percent of the more than 3,000 respondents said they were slightly, moderately or very dissatisfied with other students’ respect for the residence halls.

Contact building and grounds reporter William Schertz at [email protected].