Vandalism Adds to Financial Woes

El Vaquero Arts and Entertainment Edit

“You are raised to respect other people and property and you wouldn’t do this destruction if you really thought of it as your property,” said Lawrence Serot, executive vice president of Administrative Services, referring to the prevalent issue of graffiti and the damage to various blinds and blackout curtains on campus.

Serot addressed the current wave of such acts in a campuswide e-mail sent out on March 14 to GCC faculty and staff. According to Serot, graffiti on the college campus has worsened this past semester and the damage to curtains in both the Camino Real and Administration buildings is not only new, but disturbing.

“We never had problems, but all of a sudden people are just yanking them [curtains] off,” he said. “It doesn’t destroy the curtains but it does damage the rod, which then needs to be replaced.”

In the past six months there have been several complaints about noticeable damage to the curtains in the form of cutting and pulling. According to Lew Lewis, Director of Facilities, the cost to replace and/or repair damaged curtains averages from $400 to $600.

Cleaning up graffiti is not inexpensive either.

Lewis said that the product used to remove the tagging costs $10 per can, and although the product does in fact remove some of the markings, the smudges produced during clean-up call for other types of restoration, like painting. Hiring an outside painter costs the school too much money, money which the campus cannot afford to spend.

“There is only so much money,” said Serot. “If we spend it cleaning up after people, we don’t spend it on teaching.”

Campus Police Specialist, Nidal Kobaissi, believes that the best way to dissipate the current wave of vandalism is for faculty to speak about the issue with their students and report such acts as soon as possible. He concurs that the money spent on campus clean-up is not only a financial blow to the students, but it also takes away money from other areas that benefit the students, like the development of more parking.

Student Michael Monterrozo, 18, is also concerned about the financial deficit such problems may bring to the campus. He fears that the students will have to foot the bill for such expenditures, but he also fears the reactions of potential GCC students.

“If anyone actually thinks about coming to this school and they see something like that [graffiti and vandalism], they might think poorly about the students that come here or they might even think that we have troublemakers,” said Monterrozo.

Monterrozo believes that the tagging on campus is done by both students and other people, not GCC students, who come to the campus simply to leave their mark.

Others like Dan Padilla, Manager of Maintenance and Facilities, believe that it’s the students who are tagging, triggered by a notion to claim territory for themselves.

There is not one single place on campus that is heavily marked by graffiti, but there are several places that suffer from such eyesores.

Tagging can be found on tables outside of the library, walls and lockers in the Aviation/Art building, windows, where the marks are scratched in, and inside the library.

Damages in the library, according to Lewis, are even more strenuous to remove. For the most part, the graffiti in the library can be found on desks and cubicle walls. Cubicle walls are upholstered with cloth and the marks tend to remain in spite of clean-up. Facilities find themselves removing the cloth and replacing it, only to have it tagged once again.

The college has always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to graffiti. If caught tagging, the student may face serious disciplinary action. The campus police will issue a ticket, but the students will have to appear in municipal court and have the offense go on their record.

Severe acts of vandalism warrant a meeting with the dean of students, who will then carry out internal disciplinary measures.

As far as alleviating vandalism inside the classrooms, Serot has suggested looking into the possibility of locking classroom doors until the instructor arrives for class, leaving the students to wait outside of the classrooms.

In order to maintain the cleanliness and beauty of the campus, an in-house painter will be hired, a decision that takes highest priority for the new fiscal year, according to Serot. This decision stems from the much-needed paint jobs around campus, which includes covering up chipped handrails and shoe prints on walls, among other things.

By making the students aware of the problems that vandalism and graffiti bring, Serot hopes that the student body will be more considerate toward the campus. He would like for students to recognize that every time the school has to divert dollars to repairing damaged curtains or cleaning up the campus, it takes money away from the educational program, the ability to buy supplies, and the ability to hire new teachers.

“Sometimes I want to say to people, ‘your mother doesn’t work here,'” said Serot. “She may pick up after you at home, but she doesn’t work here and we have to pay people a lot of money to pick-up after you.”

Students are encouraged to report any acts of vandalism to the campus police headquarters located in the Sierra Madre building or by phone at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5925.