Editorial: Fiery Response to Firelands Graffiti
The residents of Firelands — Oberlin’s seven-floor, apartment-style village housing option — are familiar with the vandalism that routinely fills the elevators’ interiors. Though these residents may not condone the graffiti, their general consensus seems to be that they would prefer an operating elevator to squeaky-clean walls.
Last week, Residential Education made two decisions in response to the continual and prominent defacement of the elevator interior. First, ResEd decided to shut down the two machines for the remainder of the semester. Further, it demonstrated the seriousness of the matter by charging every Firelands resident close to $100 dollars to offset the cost of repairs.
ResEd’s frustration is understandable. For the past several years, the College has repeatedly paid to have the elevators repainted. College officials estimate that they have spent between $5000 and $8000 dollars on both paint and carpeting this year alone, yet the graffiti continues.
Certainly, ResEd has a right to mandate respect for College property. It also has an interest in well-maintained buildings, because poorly-kept buildings or a vandalized elevator may reflect negatively on the College to prospective students and visitors.
However, the childish actions of a few students should not merit an equally childish punishment for all. The Firelands residents’ resentment was palpable during a student-organized meeting on Wednesday night where all agreed that shutting down the elevators is an unacceptable and oppressive solution. Many students voiced the opinion that it is unrealistic to expect all students to share responsibility in the cost of repairs caused by an unknown few.
Others noted that ResEd has chosen to address the vandalism but leave other maintenance issues unaddressed, including a broken ventilation system in the same elevators under fire for student vandalism.
As the College enacts policy that directly impacts students’ quality of life at Oberlin, there is no reason why it should not use student voices as a valuable resource toward its decision-making.
Students who attended Thursday’s meeting in Firelands have drafted a proposal which condemns the graffiti and proposed creating a panel of students that would represent all residents, similar to the hall councils featured in traditional dorms.
To be fair, one student initiative to combat the vandalism has already failed; this initiative attempted to recruit a student muralist who would fill the elevator interior in lieu of the graffiti. But the failure of one project hardly merits any disregard of student opinion as a whole, especially given that ResEd’s own solutions have also failed.
When ResEd meets today with representatives of Firelands to hear their proposed solution to the vandalism problem, it should take this opportunity to prove that it respects and values student opinion. ResEd should seriously consider acting on the ideas generated by those who, after all, are the ones riding the contested elevators on a daily basis.