Within the past month Goucher College has experienced a sudden rush of vandalism incidents. Many
students have seen the destruction, which has included five damaged ceiling tiles and graffiti in a bathroom. One of the doors leading to the Health Center was also cracked, a wall in Welsh was kicked in, and a Ping-Pong table was damaged. The total cost of the damage – including three damaged cars (two were “keyed” and one had its tires slashed) and a broken vending machine – is estimated to be $3,150.
Though the cost may not seem exorbitant to many Goucher students, administrative response was swift. President Sanford Ungar suggested in an October 2 e-mail to the Goucher community that if vandalism continues, the acts may be viewed as “property crimes” that will be referred to civil court. Regarding the finances specifically, Ungar noted that Goucher does not have a “vandalism fund” to pay for such costs, and will need to “pass these costs along [to students] in increased student fees.” However, in a personal interview he stated that, “Repairs will be covered to a certain point” before the cost will fall onto the students who live in the area damaged. Ungar also stated that if the students responsible are caught, they will be fined and held responsible for the damages they caused.
Very few of the culprits who have been identified have been apprehended, according to Assistant Dean of Students Andrew Wu. Those who have been caught were identified in a number of ways. Last year, Goucher installed concealed cameras to record incidents of vandalism, and students who witness the events can fill out silent witness forms so that those responsible will not know who reported them. These forms are taken “very seriously,” according to Ungar. If one is filled out, an investigation will follow. The punishment for those caught will vary. Each case is taken before the judicial board and the punishment will be decided based on the Student Code of Conduct.
Though the administrative response suggests that rates of vandalism have gone up this year, they have not been much higher than last year’s rates. By October 6, 2012, there were 24 incidents of reported vandalism on campus. By October 6, 2013, there were 29 cases. Much of the vandalism took place in such a short span of time. The spikes in the number of incidents seem to be connected to the weekend, and alcohol has been a factor in the identified cases, according to Dean Coker.
Unlike previous years, there have been fewer hospital transports due to alcohol than what is typical for the fall semester. This would indicate that fewer students are drinking, or that those who are drinking are better at regulating their alcohol intake.
There have also been other crimes on campus that have the student population concerned. Recently a laptop was stolen from the Athenaeum. However, according to Ungar, the thief is supposedly not a student but was a visitor, which are difficult to track because access to the library is hard to control. No other thefts have been reported since that incident.
There were also complaints from residents of Welsh Hall that some of their belongings had gone missing during their time in the Sheraton. Dean Coker said that Goucher is examining the situation and is in the “process of dealing with what most likely happened.” If the contractors who were working on the building at the time are found guilty, the company that hired the employees, Serv. Pro, will take responsibility and reimburse the students for their stolen items.
“Students need to understand vandalism doesn’t affect one person, it affects multiple people,” Coker noted, drawing a line between the two different issues.