Cleaning up a tainted campus

Alissa O'Neill and Alissa O'Neill

On the sides of buildings, in bathroom stalls – it seems every public place these days has been decorated by someone with a marker. Graffiti is popping up everywhere, and while some consider it a form of expression, others consider it vandalism.

Sharon Hernandez has worked for Bowling Green State University’s Facilities Services for 22 years now, and says graffiti is not as big of a problem on campus as it has been in the past.

“It’s seasonal,” Hernandez said. “Halloween, after games. It goes along more with what’s going on.”

When graffiti does turn up on campus, the responsibility usually falls on Facilities Services to take care of it. Custodial workers are responsible for cleaning up graffiti, even if it falls outside of the building they are working in.

“If it lies 10 feet outside of the building, we take care of it,” Hernandez said. “If it’s more than 10 feet out, we call grounds services.”

Most of the graffiti found is discriminatory and requires more work on the part of the custodial employees. Discriminatory graffiti requires custodial workers to call the University Police and file an incident report, on top of removing the graffiti.

University Police Officer Kevin Meyers says graffiti isn’t a serious problem at the University so far this year, but every case is taken into consideration.

“With every case a report is written so that it is documented,” Meyers said.

These case reports are then given to detectives who compare the grafiti letters,symbols or pictures with those of previously reported graffiti cases. The detectives keep track of graffiti cases in order to monitor possible gang activity.

Graffiti isn’t only found on campus. Off campus, bouncers at Howard’s Club H don’t feel as strongly on the issue as the University does. In fact, they say the graffiti is a part of the bar. Bouncer Brad Beaverson says he has walked in on people tagging and he doesn’t have a problem with it.

“It shows up randomly when people get drunk and bring a marker,” Bearverson said with a shrug.

Alex Kish is also a bouncer at Howard’s and says he has seen graffiti in the bathrooms many times.

“There are usually small, subtle rumors in the handicap stall in the back,” Kish said.

Graffiti in bathroom stalls at Howard’s adds to its unique atmosphere, but graffiti in bathroom stalls on campus only adds to custodial workers’ work loads.

Hernandez doesn’t see a point to the graffiti.

“I don’t feel that it’s necessary,” Hernandez said. “If it was nice things it wouldn’t be so bad, but the graffiti is usually negative.”

The bouncers at Howard’s see graffiti as a part of the bar, but custodial workers on campus see graffiti as merely another headache. So the question remains – is graffiti a form of self-expression or is it simply another form of vandalism?