Is stress or lack of responsibility to blame for campus vandalism?

At the end of a long stressful week, many Norwich students want to unshackle from the stress of academics.  However, this need to unwind has led to an increase in damage on campus.

“I’ve heard several people at the end of midterms, and stressful weeks say ‘I need to get messed up this weekend to put it bluntly,’ said Kris, a 21-year-old junior engineering student who asked to remain anonymous for this story.

“It could just be someone who’s angry and throws a punch and breaks something. I know I’ve come back from a failed test, I’ve thrown my backpack across my room. That sort of thing,” he said.

A vandalized hallway sign is missing on the third floor of Hawkins Hall. (Arielle Eaton Photo)

A vandalized hallway sign is missing on the third floor of Hawkins Hall. (Arielle Eaton Photo)

It seems this year, frustration levels are at an all time high, with several incidents of vandalism being reported on campus, from trashcans being thrown out of windows to the ropes on the code flags being cut twice.

“There was the cutting of the code flags, there was serious damage done to the outside door of Alumni, that’s been a spike, but it hasn’t been that bad,” said Seth Hayes, 21, a senior construction engineering management major from Granby, Conn.  “It’s getting to the point where FACOPS (Facility Operations) is refusing to fix it,” he said.  “That being said, I don’t think the damage has been any worse than with previous years, I think there has been however, a rise in alcohol related incidents,” he said.

Other students disagree with such incidents being called vandalism at all.

“I don’t think it’s much of breaking and being malicious and wanting to vandalize on purpose, I think it is a kleptomaniac phase, you know,  people stealing white boards and that sort of thing,” said Jake Santarelli, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Hamilton, Mass.

“You know you have whiteboards being ripped down, it may not be the most expensive, but you know freshman year, all the years after that, it’s a commonplace thing, it’s just going to happen no matter what you do,” said John Zwack, 21, a senior mechanical engineering major from Stephentown, N.Y.

“People naturally want to do what they are not supposed to, because it’s an adrenaline rush,” Kris said. “People here are adrenaline junkies, airborne school sapper school, air assault, everyone is looking to do that crazy thing that’s going to have a really great story with it.”

“They’re getting a thrill they can’t get anywhere else, yeah it’s messed up, but it happens, people just like to do dumb things,” said Santarelli.

“I think what it boils down to is Norwich is a lot of testosterone, there are not many places to go, and sometimes when people get tired and angry they want to be destructive and they say to themselves “I want to do that,” and then they just do it,” said Kris.

“People just want to go crazy. The most compliant person is going to break eventually and go crazy and then it ends up with the campus getting trashed,” said Zwack.

“There’s a lot of testosterone, a lot of stress and people want to blow it off and they get destructive, it’s kind of the nature of the beast,” said Hayes. ”I mean I break the rank on my cover almost every other week because I get frustrated and throw it,” Hayes said.

“I think people are getting frustrated with the way things are right now.  It is tough because we are dealing with things that other normal college students do not. We have the Corps, seniors now are looking at graduating, school work, it stress on top of stress,” said Brian Dunne, 22, a senior criminal justice major from Peabody, Mass.

Many of these acts are done against the corps leadership. “Last year you had a code flag burned, this year it’s been cut down twice,” said Dunne, “I think people are getting  angry at things they think the student leadership has control over, but that might not be the case.”

Some administrators as well as students think that these cycles of damages and vandalism can be curbed with the right enforcement. One of those administrators is a member of the commandant staff, Cmnd. Sgt. Maj. Larry Rooney.

“It’s the broken windows theory, a vacant building, and one kid broke a window, and it doesn’t get fixed, you have other kids seeing that type of behavior and seeing its okay and then they do it,” said Rooney.

“We replace it if it’s broken, and they see “oh there’s another one no big deal,” They don’t know it, but it’s going on their bills for the building, but the students still deface things, he said. “People don’t have ownership of it, they don’t care.”

“I’ve seen people do it either accidentally or out of spite, I’ve seen people break stuff, just to break stuff. There is this mentality that I break this or I take this.There’s 150 people in the building, I have one out of 150 chances of getting caught, so what do I care? I mean again, it is wrong, but it still happens,” Santarelli said.

“Junior Ring is a prime example of this,” Hayes said. “People drink, go to condos and then incur a lot of damages at those condos and you have to pay for it.”

“Accidents happen, if you rent a condo, you’re taking an inherent risk that things are going to get busted, yeah we put some dings in a table with our rings you know things like that happen,” he said.

“Then you have the cases,” Zwack said, “where people at the these condos start a fire, throw a chair through the pool cover while it was burning. That is stupid and excessive, and that’s wrong.”

“I think anything that’s destructive and violent like that is wrong, but it happens,” Kris said.

“As Alfred said in the Dark Knight: ‘Some men just want to watch the world burn,’” Dunne said.

Some students struggle to take responsibility. In order to curb the destruction and the damage cost to students, Rooney said that more cadets need to get involved, that it cannot just be the administration that handles the problem.

“You need buy in from the cadets; you can’t blame it on just the administration, or just security. Everyone has to support one another and then this will stop,” Rooney said.

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