By Jessica Daniel
Swastikas, racial insults, sexist comments. All of these have appeared as graffiti in campus restrooms, particularly in the men’s room in Syre and Laidlaw.
Graffiti has been an issue for many years on Whatcom’s campus, said Brian Keeley, director of facilities. Found in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, graffiti is mainly seen in the men’s and consists of any words or images etched into the bathroom walls.
“It varies from childish poems, to very serious racial rhetoric,” said Leon Scott, a student who is also part of Whatcom’s safety committee. The graffiti often involves chain messages between students who are trying to get their point across to others.
An example is in the upstairs woman’s restroom in Syre, where a chain conversation took place about how the world was going to end, even bringing Jesus into it.
“I’m not against expressing yourself, just don’t do it where you’re not supposed to,” said Nancy Khoury, a Whatcom student. “It’s stupid.”
“Some of the graffiti is nasty, but some of the graffiti are downright hate crimes,” said Carl Adams, maintenance supervisor for the facilities department at Whatcom, in an e-mail. He added that restrooms are not the only places graffiti is dealt with.
“We deal with classroom desks being written on all the time,” he said. Study carrels (partitioned study areas) in the library are also vandalized.
Keeley said it is difficult to prevent graffiti. “The most effective method of graffiti control has been to clean it up as soon as possible,” he added.
“When the graffiti is etched into a surface, the school has to prep and paint the partitions or walls,” Keeley said. This process is usually completed during the summer, but the school is currently working on the stall partitions in the men’s restrooms in Heiner.
Adams said that working on the partitions is not only an on-going process, but also a major undertaking due to the time involved in sanding, masking, and painting them.
He also mentioned the issue of replacing supplies that have been carved into, such as paper towel and toilet paper dispensers.
Even with the new paint, Adams said the men’s room in lower Syre was recently defaced in two different areas, forcing it to be re-painted yet again.
“We didn’t even have our masking removed,” he said. “I could write a book on how many hours have been wasted on covering graffiti.”
As for when the painting will be completed, Adams had a simple response: “That’s a loaded question,” he said. “We are just trying to keep up with the worst of it.”
Keeley said that if any student is found to be vandalizing school property, they will be expelled and charges brought against them.
“Students need to know that we all have a responsibility for campus safety and the respectful use of the college property,” he said.
If students see something they feel is concerning or destructive, they can report it directly to the administrative services office in Laidlaw 144, or by calling 383-3350.