Gonzaga University is experiencing an increase in vandalism and destruction of property around campus. While vandalism on campus is not a new occurrence, the frequency and severity of destruction of property has sharply increased.
In the past few weeks, Kennedy Apartments has faced numerous cases of destruction and vandalism around the residence hall.
Amber Atwood, northwest block resident director, has encountered stolen items in students’ rooms and in hallway closets.
As of last Friday, seven of at least 12 exit signs in Kennedy have been stolen or tampered with, which is considered destruction of property. Exit signs are required in all buildings and therefore have to be replaced quickly, according to Atwood.
Because of this, if no student is caught or comes forward, all students on the floor where the sign is missing from are charged, except for the resident assistants. The necessity of the signs requires a quick turnaround, meaning the window to find the student before everyone is charged is small.
Resident directors have been working with Campus Security & Public Safety (CSPS) to find answers. CSPS crime prevention and education officer Phil Tyler has been monitoring recent events on campus.
“The vast majority [of malicious mischief incidents] have been the destruction of exit signs in our residence halls,” Tyler said. “This creates potential issues of safety for students, if an emergency happens and they are unable to locate a lighted exit sign.”
Resident directors find who it is through camera footage or finding a student with the object in their possession. According to Resident Assistant Jesslin Ochoa, mainly the second floor of Kennedy is missing the exit signs and nothing is missing on the upperclassmen floors. The students destroying property are most likely sophomores.
“The general population of students here are very respectful and caring individuals, but a niche population of students are being disrespectful to staff members by vandalizing and stealing property,” Atwood said.
Taking down exit signs can be a dangerous act in itself. According to Tyler, students can injure themselves depending on how they damage the sign, (i.e. striking with a bare hand). Some students are unable to fully get it down, as a few signs have been found dangling by the wire but still attached to the ceiling.
Bulletin boards have been found with flyers and decorations torn off, leaving the resident assistants to fix them. Posters of the faculty in residence for Kennedy Apartments were also torn down around the building.
According to Atwood, who has served as a resident director at Fairfield University, destruction of bulletin boards is a common occurrence in first-year residence halls, but not as much in other classes.
Atwood believes a part of this comes from students not being able to find themselves with the pandemic restricting social life.
“People are figuring out what they need to do to be cool or get laughs, and I think a lot of this stems from the need to feel validated,” Atwood said.
Social media platforms can influence this need to complete crazy actions for the respect and adoration of peers. TikTok’s “Devious Licks” trend has led to a vandalism and destruction crisis in schools across the nation.
It began with students posting videos of themselves stealing items from schools. Videos of students stealing soap dispensers, fire extinguishers, computers, film projectors and even actively vandalizing bathrooms have been posted to the social media platform.
Two weeks ago, TikTok announced it would be removing content related to “devious licks” and will further discourage similar actions. As it uses the hashtag to delete videos, users have changed hashtags or abandoned them altogether and have continued to post.
These videos have led to real consequences. According to school officials from a USA TODAY report, nine students have been arrested on misdemeanor vandalism charges in Marion County Public Schools in Florida for incidents including destruction of a urinal, hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. The same article reported that in Boone County, Kentucky, eight juveniles have been charged in offenses related to the trend — four face vandalism charges and four face theft charges.
Destruction of property is not just happening at Kennedy Apartments. Late Night COG recently revised its schedule partially due to destruction of property and rowdiness, and will now only host a few in conjunction with SpikeNites.
According to Suzie Mize, associate vice president of Auxiliary Enterprises, the COG has experienced destruction of property in the past, but not to the level that it has been occurring this year.
Data provided by Tyler said that the campus has recorded 15 instances of what CSPS defines as malicious mischief since August. In 2020, there were 76 reported incidents and in 2019, there were 34.
Fire extinguishers were stolen from main buildings like the John J. Hemmingson Center last week. CSPS has been asking resident directors to help identify students they see destroying or vandalizing property around the school, Atwood said.
Departments from around campus are working together to put an end to malicious mischief for the safety of the GU community. As video footage is searched, they're still looking to find the students who have committed such actions.