Editorial: Vandalism is not political speech, it’s embarrassing

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Protests, outcry and vandalism have marked the first few weeks of 2017 – across the country, as well as at Rowan University. Apparent dissatisfaction with the state of American politics has led to responses both public and deeply, deeply personal.

Two weeks ago vandalism occurred outside of the Hollybush Mansion and the Esbjornson Gym when statements opposing the President were sprayed onto the mansion’s sign and the gym’s outer wall. A week earlier, The Whit discovered a scrawl of profanity-laced political messages on the walls of a bathroom in Bunce Hall that appeared to have been adding up over several days or weeks.

Many of us students have not lived through such tumultuous political times, or at least we have not been old enough to experience them fully. Most of us were ignorant of the upheaval caused by the 2000 election until we were in middle or high school and were learning about it in history class. In 2001, the attacks on Sept. 11 were frightening but without context for those of us who lived through the day from the inside of a kindergarten or first grade classroom. In 2008, those of us who were in middle school likely failed to appreciate the significance of the election of President Barack Obama, for both the good that it represented and for the turmoil it would lead us to.

Profanity-ridden political graffiti scrawled on the wall of a bathroom in Bunce Hall. Photo taken on Jan. 18. – Staff Photo/Kyle Sullender

That just about brings us to now. We are a generation facing our first real test in the face of political and social threats. We can list scandal after scandal with no real attachment, no conviction, because they are not moments that we lived through. They are not moments that we had to face as the news developed, as the painstakingly slow pace of democracy ripped away the layers of veil and mystery one small piece at a time. For the most part we learned, but we did not experience.

This is not to say that today is the same as yesterday. Every week this editorial has to refer to something as “unprecedented” or “like no other,” and the words are starting to lose their meaning. It can and will be argued that now both is and is not the most divided our country’s ever been, or that our politics are more disaster-ridden and stalled than ever before. But whether today is the “most” or “worst” anything is irrelevant for those of us for whom this is the “first.”

This is not a call for silence or for an end to protests. In fact, The Whit’s very mission and reason for existing is to help students find their voice and recognize how to use it. But mindless, cowardly acts of vandalism have no place on a campus which preaches values of education, open debate and inclusion.

We are not asking that anyone silence their opinions or cease having them. This is not meant to be a direction, or a high-horsed reprimanding of those who may have committed the acts. Instead, the editorial board has decided merely to remind the community that we understand that this is the first time most of us have had to live through, experience and react to trying times.

That being said, there are ways and means of expression which are not criminal and which do not embarrass your peers who bring their friends and family onto this campus. As we continue to navigate this experience, remember that the purpose of being on this campus is not only growth of knowledge, but of a larger, thriving community.

For comments/questions about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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