Vandalism spikes as students prepare to leave campus

By RILEY BOARD

COURTESY OF TIM PARSONS
A town road sign was torn from the ground and discarded outside of Twilight Hall on the night of Thursday, March 12, two days after students were notified that they would be required to evacuate campus.

Faced with the sudden reality that their semesters would likely be ending, many Middlebury students spent their nights before the mandatory Covid-19-related evacuation partying, drinking and vandalizing the campus and town in abundance. Damage has included broken glass, stolen signs, strewn garbage, smashed furniture and windows, and items thrown into trees. Facilities staff are spending the weekend cleaning up messes across campus. 

Normally, two employees must walk the campus twice a week for two hours to clear the campus of trash and hazards outside, explained College Landscape Horticulturist and Staff Council President Tim Parsons. On Thursday and Friday, it took teams of five entire days.

“There are seniors seeing people maybe for the last time ever, I get it,” Parsons said. “But why take it out on other people here? You’re part of a community.” 

On Friday morning, as a group of five landscapers prepared to secure buildings that will be closed to students in the coming weeks, they reflected on spending the last two days walking around the campus picking up broken glass and demolished items. 

One worker said he has seen items like fans and microwaves thrown out of windows, and that at least 10 to 15 soap dispensers have been ripped off the walls in residential halls and smashed.

COURTESY PHOTO
A smashed window of Forrest Hall was boarded.

Others expressed concern for dogs and students walking across the campus who might be injured by the shards of glass strewn in the grass and on sidewalks. 

Some landscapers had to wrestle bikes, bike racks and other large items down from trees. Government traffic signs, weighing several hundred pounds and buried three feet into the ground, were torn out of the earth and discarded, or are missing entirely. 

The sign that designates President Laurie Patton’s parking space was ripped from the ground — it is still missing.

According to Custodial Supervisor Dan Celik, other residential hall damages have included smashed windows in Forrest Hall and Battell Hall, a shattered glass door in the Tavern Social House, smashed scaffolding outside Atwater Hall B, broken lights and windows in Chateau, ripped-down hall lights in the Ross complex, a hole smashed into the wall at 48 South Street (KDR House), discharged fire extinguishers in Allen Hall and other ripped signs and bulletin boards around campus.

COURTESY PHOTO
Students tipped over furniture in the hall of Chateau.

The college has not yet assessed the total cost of the destruction. Damages in residential halls are charged to students based on their location. Damages outside are absorbed by the facilities budget.

Parsons said that the damage in the past few days has been worse than that of a typical Senior Week. He theorizes that Senior Week usually has a series of planned activities that keep students off campus or otherwise busy, which can prevent chaos like that which occurred this week.

“[Landscaping staff] would have loved to help students and their families pack up their cars,” Parsons said. “But instead, they spent their time picking up broken glass.”

Damage also extended into the town of Middlebury. Two Brothers Tavern, a restaurant and bar located a short walk from campus, was hosting its weekly Thursday College Night when its sign was partially pulled off and its American flag torn down.

Why? To our late night patrons who were here for one last College Night…it is woefully unacceptable to have pulled…

Posted by Two Brothers Tavern on Friday, March 13, 2020

“Small businesses like ours have razor thin profit margins and even less time to pay for and fix such things as those caused by last night’s destructive behavior,” Two Brothers wrote in a Facebook post. “Have a little respect when you are here, at home and everywhere you go in the world.” 

According to the Facebook post, Two Brothers is now reevaluating the continuation of College Night come fall.

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