Personnel in the School of Communication and Media found a document attached to the outside of an office at Moorehead Hall this morning containing more statements from an unknown individual known as “o.h.,” the same signature attributed to the complaints scrawled on the exterior walls of Calcia Hall on Sunday night in an act that the university is investigating as vandalism.
The statements from “o.h.” came as a piece of white copy paper with a message printed on it. The document read: “Is it vandalism if it’s for art? You can’t wash away my voice,” likely a reference to the erasure of the Calcia Hall vandalism yesterday, when a power-washing company removed chalk messages voicing complaints about the Department of Art and Design from the building. This document, like the statements written on Calcia Hall, was signed “o.h.”
The message was originally taped to the glass window outside the administrative offices of the School of Communication and Media and obtained by The Montclarion.
At this time, authorities cannot verify that the individual who left this message in Moorehead, where the office of Daniel Gurskis, Dean of the College of the Arts, is located, was the same “o.h.” who wrote on the walls of Calcia on Sunday night.
The university community awoke on Monday morning to find large messages written in chalk on the walls and sidewalk outside of Calcia Hall, the seat of the Department of Art and Design. These statements contained complaints about the building being locked to students over the weekend and larger complaints about the administration and curriculum of the department as well as problems with the facility itself.
That incident is still under investigation and this new message will be taken into consideration during the investigation, said Lieutenant Kieran Barrett, spokesperson for the University Police (UPD).
Around noon today, The Montclarion reported the document to Barrett. “This would be considered harassment to some degree,” said Barrett. “This [message] is just a free question. It’s not threatening in nature. But, at the same time, it lends more towards an objective for that individual or individuals.”
Barrett said that he believes the means by which the person(s) involved sent their message to the Montclair State administration are not the most productive way to generate change at the university level. “I recognize that activism is a way to change things, but activism in the right way and activism within the confines of not just the law, but student conduct as well, [is better],” said Barrett.
He also said that the university has responded well to students’ needs in the past when students addressed them with the administration.
Dr. Karen Pennington, the Vice President for Campus Development and Student Life, shared Barrett’s view. In response to the vandalism incident, she said, “We understand that unexpected change can be stressful, especially at the end of the semester. But damaging property is never the way to go. We encourage individuals to contact appropriate individuals (e.g., academic dean’s office, Dean of Students Office, VP for Student Development’s office) for assistance when problems occur. We all are very open to intervening and doing whatever we can do to help. Acting out in emotional and/or violent ways [doesn’t] solve the problem. Talking will.”
“We recognize that [the vandalism] is not something that was violent or overly destructive in nature,” said Barrett, “but, the reality is that this is a situation we need to address.”
Individuals in the campus community, however, do not see the need to treat the occurrence as a criminal offense.
Student Erica Stolte said that the chalk vandalism was a way for a visual artist to present complaints which have circulated the Department of Art and Design for a long time.
“The school doesn’t care to hear our say on anything,” Stolte said. “I don’t believe [whoever did this] should be punished—also [because of] the fact that it’s sidewalk chalk—and what he/she wrote should be taken into consideration by the staff.”
Other students also complained about the status of the incident being a criminal investigation of vandalism. One comment on The Montclarion’s story on the Calcia vandalism, coming from a former student, said, “The university referring to writing on the walls with chalk as ‘vandalism’ is such a stretch, especially because the sororities and frats are encouraged to write all over the quad in chalk. So apparently it’s only ‘vandalism’ if they don’t like what you say.”
Kristen Bryfogle, Editor-in-Chief, contributed to this story