Vandals Supply Steamy Welcome to New Semester

By Kim-Jenna Jurriaans

A recent spree of vandalism that struck the campus last week leaves Antioch to pick up the $3500 bill to pay for the restoration of destroyed artwork and windows, general repairs and labor hours.

The events approximately started on Sunday, September 3rd with bricks smashing the windows of both the president’s and the vice president’s offices, and ended in the flooding of the first floor of the union building early Tuesday morning, after unknown vandals purposely clogged and repeatedly flushed the upstairs toilets. The broken windows in Main Hall were discovered on Monday morning between 11.30 and noon, when one of the bricks was found on the floor of the president’s office. Another was found in the surrounding area.

According to Darrel Cook working at the physical plant, the flooding at the Union didn’t occur till the following night or early the next morning. After clogging the toilets, the offenders urinated into the water, causing urine filled water to leek into the cafeteria. Four workers spent two hours non stop sanitizing the area in order for the cafeteria to open on time for Tuesday morning breakfast. Dean of students Jimmy Williams was especially alarmed about the effects the incident might have on the ability to feed the campus community. “We’re talking health violations here. Those requirements are quite strict. We were close to having to shut the Caf down.?

In addition to the incident at the Union, vandals found a way into the science building where they left a $2500 trail of damage to artwork in the downstairs hall. The art consisted of digitally re-mastered photographs of the first generation of Antioch alumni from the 1850s. “Those Photographs had only been up there for about a year?, says Darrel Cook, assistant manager of the Physical Plant in charge of the clean up. “Whoever it was took them down and tried to flush them down the toilet. All artwork was urinated on and smeared with feces.?

According to Dispatcher Campbell of the Yellow Springs police department there are no official leads so far as to who is responsible. Given the nature of the vandalism, however, both campus crew and administration find it likely to be someone familiar with the buildings and the community.

The Science building is usually locked over the weekend, but with the number of keys in circulation among students that is hardly a barrier. Dean Williams goes on to say: “This is Antioch. This is not a place were we keep busy locking people out. If you want to get into a certain building, you will find a way.?

Cook says he above all felt discouraged by the incident: “The maintenance crew had worked very hard for the last three weeks to get the campus nice before the new students arrived. It only takes a couple of people some hours to make our lives hell.?

Dean Williams was similarly disheartened by the nature of the vandalism: “We’ve had vandalism before, but in terms of nastiness it has escalated?, he says.

Like many students on campus he links the events to the recent policy changes that took place at the college and which threw a rift between many of the older students and the Antioch administration: “The community is broken right now. And all sides are convinced that they are right.?

According to the Dean the atmosphere was tense at the end of last semester. With the arrival last January of yet another president to lead “the new Antioch? into becoming a less ‘toxic? community, debates arose over the use of authority and distribution of power on campus, leaving many students frustrated with the new status quo. “We’ve become a community suspicious of change, partly because we’ve had so much of it these last years?, says Williams. “People felt devaluated, they didn’t feel they were heard. There was a vacuum and if there is a vacuum something always slips in.?

Although the issue was addressed at last weeks RDPP orientation for entering students, the reaction of the community to the incident was surprisingly calm. Some interviewed students had heard of the events vaguely, others who were off-campus for several days last week, hadn’t heard of it yet at all. Second year transfer Mariel Traiman was quoted as saying: “When I first saw the broken windows on Monday morning I remember ‘thinking this will be a big issue on campus this week’. I’m actually surprised of how not a big issue it is.? Indeed there didn’t seem to be much of a ‘whodunnit’- atmosphere amongst students. Lunch conversations tended to focus more on upcoming classes and everyday business than speculations as to the motive of the vandalism and whether the events that took place on separate days were the works of the same persons. “I know that the college portrays the events as one incident, but I’m pretty sure they’re not?, continues Traiman, who has been living around Antioch the last months before entering as a student this fall. “For me the throwing of the stones was a political act. The rest was just plain stupid.?

One of the reasons the administration has taken a low-key approach to the incident seems to be not to want to spoil the overall upbeat vibe on campus that came with the arrival of the 150 new students two weeks ago. “That’s why we were so disappointed when it happened,? continues Williams. “We had had a really good week so far. And then Bam!? At the RDPP meeting Williams encouraged students to step forward if they had any information, but so far none have. ?I do think it is a problem that people know about it and choose to stay silent?, he says. He acknowledges that the atmosphere has changed over the previous years, with a low point being last semester. “The culture has gotten a little mean-spirited.? Part of the problem he attributes to a lack of communication between administration and students. “If people don’t get answers, they find answers. Administrators need to know students. In a place as Antioch that should be really easy. We should fix that.? The Dean of students nevertheless denounces the choice of action. First year Caitlin Murphy seems to agree: “This is simply not the way you get things done.?

“The irony is, we used to brag about being really tolerant here?, continues Williams. “Now we’re less tolerant. This used to be the place where dissenting opinions were discussed, petitioned. Somewhere along the line that got lost. We’re in a time of confusion right now, but I think our problems have an easy fix. This is not a student – faculty problem, but a student -administration issue. We need to get out more, be more approachable.?

So far the events don’t seem to have put a damper on the new community vibe. Since the College itself isn’t planning a large-scale inquiry into the incident, the vandalism is likely to stay unaccounted for.

Antioch is currently looking into options to get the pieces of artwork restored, but it is still unclear whether that is possible. If not, the 2500 dollars reserved for the restoration will go towards new artwork for the Science Building.