It was Saturday night. Bijan Khaghani ’23 was sitting in the first floor common room of Lewis Residence Hall when he heard a commotion coming from the second floor. A student came down the stairs and announced that a group of people had just come through and vandalized the upstairs bathroom.
When Khaghani walked upstairs, he found the hall in ruins. Soap dispensers had been knocked from the walls. Community Advisor (CA) informational posters lay torn and scattered on the ground. The personal belongings of several students had been dumped in and around the urinals.
Callie Gompf-Phillips ’21, CA for Lewis Hall, reported being the first one to discover the mess. “It was part of our normal rounds as community advisors—we check the bathrooms and we move through all of the halls,” Gompf-Phillips said. “Sometime after midnight we came through and we knocked on the door and we went in, and that was the condition in which it was found.”
“It’s not an isolated incident,” she added. “This is the first time it’s happened in Lewis to this extent, but this is [not] the first time this semester in which we see a mass vandalism or destruction in a hall.”
Over the past few weeks, a series of vandalism incidents have struck first-year residence halls such as Lewis, Mather Hall and McBride Hall. Unknown vandals have torn mirrors off walls, broken soap dispensers and flung toiletries around communal bathrooms. Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, finds the incidents “dismaying.”
“There were a couple of incidents over the weekend, but there have been others this semester,” Bonham said. “It’s disappointing, in particular because our vandalism rates fell precipitously after we changed the K-card access system for the residence halls. Now we’ve had these incidents cropping up again.”
The current K-card system, which gives only certain students access to each residence hall, was intended to prevent students from committing vandalism in dormitories that weren’t their own. It was expected that students would be less likely to vandalize their own living spaces. Khaghani suspects that the Lewis vandalism was committed by students from another residence hall.
“I don’t know who they are, or which groups they were,” Khaghani said. “What we’ve been noticing is that it’s a lot of people who aren’t from the dorms coming in and believing that they don’t have responsibility for the dorm, therefore they can do whatever they want.”
The Office of Campus Safety is conducting an investigation into these incidents. While it is not yet complete, Michael Sweazey, director of Campus Safety, assures students that several of the culprits have already been identified.
“Thanks in part to information received from a number of students who are tired of others damaging their campus, some students have been identified as being responsible for some of the recent damage,” Sweazey wrote in an email to the Collegian. “To deter further vandalism, we have increased patrols in the dorms, and we encourage anyone with information concerning who has committed vandalism to report it to Campus Safety.”
Grant Holt contributed reporting.