In response to largely negative reactions to the graffiti on campus a few weeks ago, I would like to bring a new perspective. This newspaper called what occurred a crime, and I will acknowledge that this is technically true. But perhaps this says more about what we call crimes, and less about the supposed criminals. My first reaction to the graffiti was a smile.
Let us remember what the message was. Some say the letters were illegible, but I read the letters L-O-V-E on the Gustavus sign on the hill. There were also smiley faces on the Gustavus sign. Across campus, hearts were drawn. Let’s just say it how it is. These were crimes of love.
I will begin by acknowledging that the crimes of love had its costs. The price of removal was between $400-600. While this cost may be covered by our insurance, in the future I think the student body could cover any cost to the school for the damage unless someone admits to doing the graffiti (this could be done anonymously).
Much like a residential floor will split the costs at the end of the year for damage to their shared space, I would propose that the Gustavus student body split the cost of the damage unless someone comes forward. This would amount to about 25 cents for each student if we split the cost evenly.
Furthermore, it took time and effort by our wonderful staff that does an outstanding job maintaining our campus. It is hard for me to imagine a more beautiful place than Gustavus. It is too bad that they had to do extra work on our behalf.
I think it is awesome that students were thinking of the staff but an alternative for next time a student tags school property would be to have students volunteer to clean it up. This would be a way to save our staff some of the trouble. We could also give the people who did these crimes of love a night to clean it up anonymously. We could have sent out an email to the school, saying that those who did the crimes of love have a chance to clean it up if they wanted to.
All that being said, I would like to move on to what I saw as a largely positive thing. As far as I am concerned, I want to see hearts and smiley faces everywhere.
I would like to question some of the language that has been used to describe these crimes of love. We have to start asking what we qualify as vandalism. What do we think about that poor rock that has been repainted nearly every day?
We can paint on that because it is essentially school-sponsored. Gustavus gives us a specific place to promote the school’s interests. Not that we don’t all have our clubs or organizations or teams that we care about, but the messages on that rock are consistently supporting organizations within our institution.
Historically, “vandalism” has been one of the key non-violent weapons of the individual. It allows for a place of artful expression. It is a great way to make your voice heard. While it costs some time and money to remove it, the ultimate goal is disruption.
The disruption here may have only been done with the goal of making everyone’s days a little bit brighter, but this is never insignificant. I am not saying that Gustavus should have kept the crimes of love. It would be unheard of to keep graffiti on an entrance sign. I understand why they wished to take it off, and I am not challenging them on this decision.
We must remember though that someone decides what goes on that sign in front of the school. When there were no crimes of love, the sign read “Gustavus Adolphus College.” This decision was made solely by the school’s administration. With the crimes of love, the students had marked the sign as well. All I am saying is that that sign was not blank.
While it may not be vandalism for the school to print “Gustavus Adolphus College” on the front sign, it marks the sign just as the smiley faces. Neither message does any harm, but I understand that there are rules we must follow when we seek to gain the benefits that Gustavus gives us.
In solidarity with my fellow students, I would like to say thank you for these crimes of love. They made my day. They were a reminder that I could express positive messages. When I saw these tags I thought of love and happiness. All that being said, I would like to again thank all of those who keep our campus clean and beautiful. You do a wonderful job, so hearts and smiley faces to you as well.