Graffiti gets attention on campus from staff and students

When the lines of artistic expression are drawn in spray paint, University policy calls it vandalism.Recent incidents of spray paint vandalism such as the “fight facsism” [sic] tag and other tags on the Living/Learning Center, the Angell Building and the Davis Center, have incited discussions about graffiti on campus. “The problem, ultimately, is that there are damages and costs because of these incidents, which get passed along to the students,” David Nestor, vice president of Student and Campus Life, said.Individuals engaging in vandalism believe it is an act of expression, but they don’t realize the damage to the sense of community that their actions elicit, Nestor said.But Ruthless Rufus, a local graffiti artist and UVM student, doesn’t see any harm in his form of artistic expression.”I believe that art needs to be made public,” Rufus said, “and I don’t like the looks of gray walls.”Rufus claims to have tagged undisclosed locations on campus and wished to be called by his tag name.”There needs to be a mark of unplanned chaos,” Rufus said. “I’m just trying to make the public space more interesting.””People are paid good money to clean up graffiti.  In a way, I’m creating jobs,” Rufus said.Sure enough, groundskeepers from UVM’s physical plant department painted over all the graffiti on campus last Wednesday, Feb. 3.”It’s a big issue every year,” Gary Campagna from physical plants said, “but we got all different kinds of green chemicals to clean it off with.”Spray-painted vandalism is cleaned as soon as it’s reported, Campagna said.”We don’t want anybody to see it.”He said that certain spots are practically “drawing boards” since they’re hit so much.”If one place is hit, chances are you’ll find more,” he said. “The ‘fight facsism’ [sic] thing was nothing. Some of the graffiti is just plain hate.””I have a hard time understanding how fascism could possibly be operating here. Some slogans are [just] used to insight controversy,” Nestor said.”We seem to go through waves of vandalism,” Nestor said. “When it happens, it comes all at once … [and] this year there’s been a lot of it — more than usual.” “In the spring, when it’s nice, that’s when we really get hit … and near graduation,” Campagna said.”I’m not necessarily sure whether a lot of thought goes into [tagging],” Nestor said regarding the incidents on the Living/Learning Center. “If they had thought it through, then they probably wouldn’t have done it.”Nestor said that the University wants to protect its students’ expression, so long as it is “appropriate” expression.Rufus believes that everybody who tags has a motive behind their action. “It’s just that some people’s are better than others,” he said.”Some of the people who do this stuff are pretty talented,” Campagna said. “They’re just showing off their work.”Rufus spoke poorly of “slashers” who use spray paint to defile. He considers what he does to be art.”Spray painting ought to be done sober, and you need to practice on paper before you go out marking a wall,” Rufus said.”At the bare minimum, vandalism is a violation of policy,” Kim Martin, director for Student Ethics and Standards, said.The Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities lists spray painting as a “property offense.”The consequence for being caught vandalizing can result in a criminal charge and/or a fine, Martin said. However, there are few instances where the perpetrators are identified.UVM Police Capt. Tim Bilodeau said that the occurrence rates of spray painting have remained fairly constant over the last decade.”We’ve got too many other safety issues on weekends,” Bilodeau said. “We don’t have time to be tied up with vandalism, [but] every incident of unlawful mischief is investigated.” Bilodeau said his main concern was the dollar-value damage and the cost to the community.”Every community gets it,” he said.