Senate Searches for Graffiti Wars Solution
Senate is seeking an olive branch between students and administrators in the ongoing struggle over campus graffiti. This fall semester has been marked by a conflict in which students repeatedly graffitied the gender-neutral bathrooms while administration repeatedly painted over the walls. The painting over of graffiti stopped for about a week just before fall break, but it has since started up again.
Senate discussed last Friday a proposal to reform the now defunct Ministry of Propaganda, which would serve as a committee to decide whether or not graffiti is offensive. The goal of this committee would be to keep acceptable graffiti from being painted over.
As of now, Facilities Services has a policy of painting over any graffiti that shows up in places outside of sanctioned areas. Outside of the poolroom, and the Student Union bathrooms and manager apartment, graffiti is not allowed on campus. Director of Facilities Services Towny Angell said that the graffiti policy has not changed, but that there has been more graffiti in retaliation after the bathrooms were painted over last summer.
“While there is a back and forth, it’s not that facilities is trying to flex their muscles, but as a consequence of hate speech over the summer, facilities has started to adhere more strongly to their policy,” Senator Vas Srivastava says.
Senate has suggested that only offensive parts of graffiti should be painted over; however, Angell says, he paints over all graffiti because “I don’t want to decide what is art and what is not art, or what is offensive and what is not offensive for somebody else.”
Angell noted that the facilities services painters do not want to repress students’ ability to express themselves, but that it is their job to paint over graffiti.
“I love this school; my brother went to school here, I grew up going to concerts here, my band played here at Renn Fayre in the 80’s,” Angell says. “We’ve lost a lot of character, a lot of cool old stuff. I’d like to keep things how they are so that 100 years from now it still looks pretty good.”
The bookstore staff posted letters in the gender-neutral bathrooms that identified the conflict as the result of “artistic differences between Reed students and the administration,” and called both parties to honorably resolve the conflict. According to the staff, the fumes from both spray paint used for graffiti and solvents used to remove the graffiti waft through the bathroom vent into the backroom of the bookstore, making it difficult to breathe.
A note written on one of the bookstore letters in the gender-neutral bathrooms read, “They should just cover everything in whiteboards and leave markers in all the stalls.”
Although similar suggestions were discussed at last week’s Senate meeting, Senators noted that the resulting “graffiti” would not really be graffiti at all, as it would no longer be illicit.
Despite the difficulty of finding a solution, Srivastava is optimistic: “Things like this at Reed tend to blow over…I think it will be over by spring semester.”
Painting over graffiti is costly, running about $200-300 to coat and paint walls, according to Yeadon’s estimate. Stall barriers, he estimates, run about $1000-1500.
In the meantime, however, conflict looms as some Reed students continue to fight for their graffiti-art.
“How is this ‘paintjob’ better than the art and color that was here before?” read a graffitied note on a gender-neutral bathroom wall. “The paint was a communal choice and activity and made something dull very lively.”
Another note read, “The images that exist on these surfaces do not affect the function of this bathroom.”