Graffiti is in the eye of the beholder

Outside of Chili’s Convenience Store, on the sidewalk near Offenhauer and at the very heart of campus. Keep your eyes to the ground and you’re not likely to miss the graffiti that dots the University’s walkways and buildings.

Like any community with a significant youth population and a nearby hardware store, the University has endured years of vandalism. But a recent scourge is starting to set itself apart as a real problem, said Michael Ginsburg, the assistant dean of students.

“Instances of vandalism on campus were consistent with previous years,” Ginburg said of last school year. “However, graffiti in particular appeared to increase over previous years.”

Upperclassmen might remember the sudden influx of spray-painted messages that began popping up a couple years ago. Ambiguous slogans like “Walk with Passion,” and directly politicized tags confronting Ohio’s laws concerning gay couples soon had the University’s faculty fuming.

Remnants of a particular campaign can still be seen today, although weather and time have taken their tolls: beer bottles and cigarettes painted in blood-red with a plea from the artist(s) to “Grow Up” scrawled over the images.

A big black duck used as a symbol by Icelandic musician Bjork reared its head on West Hall.

Last year’s infamous graffiti raid carried out by several University of Toledo students ended in profanities sprayed on BGSU’s property and outrage prevailing among students.

But aside from the UT incident, most of the tags found on campus aren’t profane or incendiary in content.

“I think they add some color to the campus,” said junior Lauren Haskell. “They can be very thought-provoking, like the ‘Walk with Passion’ ones. It makes the walk to class a little more interesting.”

Predictably, the University wasn’t as keen as Haskell at the prospect of having graffiti all over campus, regarding it as “destruction of property.” Facility employees have erased most of the tags, leaving only a random spattering of slogans still visible.

“In my opinion, while graffiti can be artistic, it does not add to the overall aesthetic of the University,” Ginsburg said. “It detracts from the overall ambiance of the environment that we strive to create on campus.”

James Wiegand, chief of campus police, warned that vandalism is a fifth degree felony bearing a maximum fine of $2,500 and one year in jail.

According to Wiegand, several incidents involving graffiti have already taken place this school year.

“The graffiti we did find was gang related and there were only one or two incidents,” he said. “There were no suspects.”