Surge of Vandalism in the Dorms: Graffiti Spreading Yet No Answers In Sight

By Koko Christiaanse

— Whether seen in the elevator, on the doors, the walls, the common rooms, or on Facebook: it is nearly impossible to miss the recent wave of graffiti in the dorms. Buildings throughout the dorms have been graffitied using various mediums, such as spray paint, permanent marker, and chalk. Most parties aren’t happy.

Adel El-Sabagh, the caretaker, has a zero-tolerance stance on the issue. He says, “better kill me than that I see this [graffiti]. Really.” According to El-Sabagh, there were over fifteen new instances last week.  

Examples of graffiti in the dorms made using the same marker.

El-Sabagh highlights the importance of maintaining the building not only for the current residents, but also future residents. According to El-Sabagh, students don’t realize that the building will be here for another forty years or so. “I’m trying to do my job. I try to keep this building in good condition. Safe, clean, not only for you, for the next person also,” says El-Sabagh. 

Examples of elevator graffiti. “ACAB” stands for “All cops are bastards”.

Thomas, the building’s janitor, is the person who removes the graffiti. “When I asked Thomas, he directly started to remove it. But it’s too much now,” says El-Sabagh. El-Sabagh says he has considered calling a cleaning company to remove the graffiti. The bill would be paid by the end-of-year service costs.

Danielle van den Tol is DUWO’s social administrator for the dorms. According to van den Tol, graffiti is considered destruction of property and is therefore a crime. “With crimes, we always generally report it to the police,” says van den Tol. DUWO has not reported the graffiti to the police yet but has raised the issue with the Wijkagent (local agent). DUWO relies on El-Sabagh and residents for reports on graffiti.

Lukas Busch, second year science major, is “embarrassed” by the graffiti he discovered last week in his string. He calls the graffiti an “unnecessary mess” to be seen by everyone. He says, “for us in the string, it’s annoying. […] I don’t consider it art at all, this is just blatant arrogance.”

Committees who hold their events and gatherings in common rooms are also affected by the recent surge in vandalism. On Tuesday, November 19, the ZEN committee discovered graffiti on their common room wall. ZEN’s chair, Emma Heijdeman created a Facebook post that evening, stating that ZEN “will absolutely not stand for this”. Additional graffiti was found last Monday, appearing to target ZEN as a committee. Vilma Strandvik, PR ZEN’s PR manager, says, “It’s just so stupid and unnecessary, they’re just trying to be provocative. […] I think it is weird that they would target us.”

Graffiti found (chronologically) in the ZEN common room. The Robot’s speech bubble reads: “I love studying, the way for me to be ZEN is by being a fucking white privileged ass wanker. And having my parents pay for college!!”

The ZEN committee isn’t alone. Maud van den Berge is the communication officer of the diversity commission (DivCom). Last Friday, she noticed graffiti sprayed on the largest wall of the common room DivCom uses for gatherings and activities. The once white wall was previously used by DivCom for screenings. Van den Berge says, “I feel like it should be a space where people feel welcome and now it doesn’t feel that way anymore.”

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Graffiti found in DivComs’s frequently used common room.

Both ZEN and DivCom are burdened with deciding what to do regarding the graffiti. Strandvik says, “we don’t know if we should be holding our events in that common room until its fixed, because there’s bad energy coming from it.”

There is mixed consensus on how to tackle the issue. According to the caretaker, El-Sabagh, cameras should be installed in the building. “I can’t keep it safe like this. There are no cameras. [There is] No control,” he says. 

Van den Tol disagrees with El-Sabagh. “It is unnecessary to hang the building full of cameras, you [the residents] are grown-up and responsible people. We can see how to handle this issue together,” says Van den Tol. She calls for greater cooperation between residents and DUWO, noting a lack of reports to DUWO about instances such as these. According to Van den Tol, DUWO and residents “should find each other faster and remove barriers.”

According to Resident Assistant Zina Janssen, the best way to act is as a community. She says, “keep reporting the things that are happening, keep the discussion on Facebook going, and keep the articles going, so that both the RA team and DUWO can be as informed as possible to act upon these issues.”

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.

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