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Mills students react to senior wall vandalism

The defaced slogan of Mills’ class wall mural previously read “F13RCE Class of 2013.” (All photos by Natalie Meier)
The defaced slogan of Mills’ class wall mural previously read “F13RCE Class of 2013.” (All photos by Natalie Meier)

The class wall mural located across from the Mail and Copy Center in Rothwell was vandalized last weekend with the class’s slogan altered in red paint, the 2013 class color. The offending message has since been painted over completely.

Last year’s graduating class, the class of 2013, was dubbed the “fierce class.” As such, the massive catchphrase written amidst the messages they left behind at the end of last year read “F13RCE class of 2013.”

Senior Paint Day, an event that takes place near the end of each academic year, is a Mills College tradition. The graduating class gathers together for an afternoon and is given free rein to decorate the entire wall with messages ranging from names to wishes to inside jokes. The result is a legacy that remains on the wall for a year after the graduating class departs Mills, when the wall is painted over with white paint for the next class to leave its mark.

The defaced title read “FART ass of 2013.” The letters “C” and “L” of the word “class” were blotted out with off-white paint, and the word “F13RCE” was modified with both red and white paint. After the wall was vandalized, news quickly spread via the Facebook pages affiliated with Mills College. The majority of the comments were from alumnae of the class of 2013, upset and disbelieving that the tradition was disrespected.

“I am so angry about this! Why would someone think this is funny? Painting this wall is a huge tradition for Mills seniors, and whomever did this should, to begin with, be penalized a hefty chunk of money,” said Chelsea Ekhom, a class of 2013 alum, in a comment  on the Mills College Facebook page. “Frankly for someone whose work is on that wall, it’s not just paint, it’s disrespect.”

Currently Mills’ Department of Public Safety has no leads on who might have committed the vandalization. Without any evidence, the culprits cannot be charged a fine or sent to Division of Student Life for disciplinary action, which, according to Sergeant Dennis Bernardo, is what the first order of business would be if Public Safety had caught the taggers.

Campus facilities painted over the graffiti on the senior class mural. (Ari Nussbaum)
Campus facilities painted over the graffiti on the senior class mural. (Ari Nussbaum)

“By the time we got down there, we could not file a report because the wall had already been cleaned up and painted over,” Bernardo said.

The graffiti also sparked an online debate about sexism and whether similar incidents would have happened on a co-ed college campus. One senior, Misha Murphy, stated that she chose to attend a women’s college specifically because of the absence of men on campus.

“If that’s sexist, then the entire concept of a women’s college is sexist,” Murphy said. “Men are much more likely to be arrested for vandalism than women, so it’s not like I’m crazy for associating vandalism with men.”

Mills does have a 2 percent male population, within the graduate school.

The gender of the tagger or group of taggers is unknown. Dean of Students Eloise Stiglitz said that with a vandalism situation where there are no eye-witnesses, it is difficult to determine whether those responsible were students of Mills or individuals from off campus. Because of the anonymity factor, prosecuting the class wall mural defacement will be an ambitious task.

“It’s a major part of the College’s tradition and an important part of the transition [for graduating seniors],” Stiglitz said. “It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone would want to do that. You have to wonder why people choose to vandalize that way. It’s very unfortunate.”

Other students on the forum questioned the academic caliber of the students Mills admits, given the content of the graffiti message.

“Frankly, I’m also insulted that the fart joke wasn’t at least a bit more complex (what, are admissions standards slipping here, or something?). We (the Class of 2013) had a totally record-breaking class gift participation rate and raised $13K for a scholarship fund and to supplement student services budgets — we deserve thought-out defacing!” Jessica Glennon-Zukoff, class of 2013 alum, wrote in a Facebook comment on the Mills page.

One suggestion was that the message on the wall, regardless of the content, was a demonstration of freedom of speech and that Mills has “more than enough money to fix the wall.” Others felt that the college having to pay to fix the wall is a waste of resources, labor and money that could be going towards other areas, like scholarship funds.

“It’s not like we can access the endowment for every little thing, and there are other more pressing expenses that have to take precedence,” Ekhom said. “Whomever did this should face some kind of consequence, and as they say, hit ’em where it hurts: in their wallet.”

Read the breaking news article here: Class wall mural vandalized