By Eric Matthews–
On the morning after election day, three law students stood in front of Grawemeyer Hall scrubbing at the pediment of the Thinker statue. In the tumult of the night before, someone had scrawled “TRUMP #buildthatwall” in bright pink chalk underneath the dedicatory inscription.
“Free speech is fine, but there are better ways of doing it than defacing the front of Grawemeyer,” said law student Corey Music, rag in hand.
“This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” added Steven Harris as he worked beside Music. As an assistant to a local immigration attorney, he saw something more ominous behind the graffiti.
This defacement is one of several recent instances of vandalism on campus. Most of it appears as “tags” or nicknames written on dumpsters and posts around campus. However, some are more involved, such as a message written by “Grimes” in the stairwell of Davidson Hall which asks cryptically, “Did he bend your reflection?”
While most graffiti that appears on campus is more or less harmless, in some cases there is a more hateful motivation. Earlier last spring, racist messages were left in Threlkeld Hall common areas and the LGBT center was vandalized with a homophobic threat.
“Graffiti to me is an open sore for a community,” said Tom Owen, a U of L library archivist who promoted graffiti abatement programs as District 8 councilman. “If you let a public space be blemished, it stimulates more disrespect of property.”
A certain level of vandalism is to be expected on a college campus, but this semester new graffiti appears to be the work of a “crew” of four or five individuals attempting to saturate an area with their work. Their tags sometimes appear together in clusters, and their quest to mark out their turf may be generating competition with other vandals.
Near the beginning of the semester, “SMILE” was sprayed in large bubble letters on a retaining wall behind U of L’s Ideas to Action building, located a block north of Bettie Johnson Hall. Several weeks later, “LAUF” had painted over this mural with commentary mocking the other graffito’s work. The wall was later repainted to hide both pieces.
“I personally don’t believe campus is the place for graffiti. Profane graffiti hurts people and does leave lingering negative effects,” senior psychology student Ameenah Ikram said. “Unless there is an authorized area for it, I think it should be kept off campus all together.”