Graffiti – It's All About Community

Last year we began to notice a lot of graffiti on the bathroom stalls in the women’s and men’s rooms in the lobby of the Library.  The Library is a place used by many members of the campus and local community.  Library staff members use the restrooms often during the day, and prospective students and parents, guests to campus, faculty, and many students use the restrooms.

In response to some complaints about the content of the graffiti, and how bad it looked, I tried placing notes in the restrooms asking students to stop.  Unfortunately that had the effect of increasing the amount of writing.  For a while at the end of last spring we also tried putting up poster paper so students could write on that instead of the walls.  I took the paper down after a library staff member complained about some very unpleasant and offensive writing.

I have tried to engage in dialogue with students who are writing on the walls.  This has been frustrating.  Most want to remain anonymous.  I get it.  Graffiti is supposed to allow for free expression.  What has bothered me is that some of the students have expressed the opinion that the bathrooms are “theirs” and they should be allowed to do what they want.

Just to be clear – the bathrooms and the building belong to the State of Maryland.  Writing on the bathroom stalls is vandalism.  But more than that, the building is home to all of us who work here.  Many of us spend more waking hours in the Library than we do at home.  Don’t we count as part of the St. Mary’s community?  Doesn’t it matter that the people you know who provide such good services to you feel uncomfortable about using the restrooms in their own workplace?

If you were a visitor to campus, a prospective student or faculty member, what would you think about all of our discussion of community and of care for the campus and environment if you entered the restrooms in the Library lobby?

Writing on the bathroom stalls is vandalism of state property.  But even more than that, it is disrespectful to members of the campus community.  I ask that men and women using the restrooms please stop writing on the stalls.

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