The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Hate Speech Cause of GCC Bathroom Erasure

A sample of graffiti from the GCC bathroom prior to its erasure.
Fifteen years’ worth of graffiti are gone from a downstairs bathroom in the GCC. The formerly colorful walls of the gender-neutral room, formerly a women’s restroom before changes last spring, were covered in blank white paint over the summer.

“These restrooms were covered with messages of hate and anti-semitic symbols right before Commencement, which prompted the expedient painting,” said Bill Vaughan, day shift supervisor at Facilities Services. “The need to cover the graphics was regrettable but necessary.”

Along with the push to clean campus before families arrive for commencement, Reed holds various conferences and student camps over the summer that require a “mad cleanup effort” on campus, noted Mike Brody, vice president and dean of student services. He added that the cleanup effort is for graduation as well, with the goal of making the school an “inclusive environment,” and as Townsend Angell, Reed’s director of facilities services, put it, “presentable to as many people as possible.”

Brody was unsure if a note written on the bathroom wall last year that specified a future suicide date had anything to do with the painting. He recalled that emails had been sent out regarding the note. He said it’s possible that it added to a general push for cleaning up the school.

Brody also stated that graffiti has been “something [the administration has] been talking about a lot,” especially since issues over graffiti have arisen in the lofts of the Student Union. The graffiti in the SU became problematic for some when it began featuring images of genitalia and swastikas, among other things, and had begun spreading beyond the loft. It has since been painted over by the SU management.

It’s possible that the SU graffiti pushed the administration to clean up more of the school, speculated Shawn Flanigan, last year’s SU manager. For his part, Flanigan states that the painting over of the SU graffiti was “unrelated to the bathroom,” and that the SU management was uninvolved in the painting.

It was widely agreed that a discussion is needed over the acceptability of graffiti, and its role on campus. Angell said that though he believed it’s “not okay” for graffiti to be on walls, and that sometimes the graffiti found on campus is “unpleasant,” it may have a better place in designated spaces. He also noted that “graffiti does not seek permission,” but that artists must note that it “is impermanent too.”

Brody said it would be crazy to try to completely eliminate campus graffiti, but that students should seek an “honorable approach” to its creation.

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