Warning that ‘Next time it will be paint,” a vandal defaced the outer walls of Calcia Hall with giant chalk messages last night drawing attention to the building’s inaccessibility and decay, issues that have long preoccupied art students and faculty who use the building.
The vandal left messages in colored chalk on the brick of the quad-facing walls of Calcia, which is the seat of the department of Art and Design, and the sidewalks next to the facility. The complaints centered around the building being locked to those trying to gain access to it over the weekend, a substantial problem for art majors who need to work in studios within the facility in order to complete projects, many of which are part of their final assessments at the end of the semester.
When students came to Calcia to work on projects over the weekend, several of them found the doors to the facility locked, which appears to have incited the vandal.
“This Is supposed to be a safe space for students And faculty to create Art,” was one of the sentences written on the building. “Instead, It has become a buisness (corporation) with LOCKED DOORS (sic).”
Another area of the wall read, “YOU ARE PAYING FOR LOCKED DOORS AND A FAILING CURRICULUM.”
The graffiti was signed “o.h.” The University Police Department (UPD) is trying to figure out who that person is and is investigating the incident as a “criminal offense,” according to Lieutenant Kieran Barrett, spokesperson for police on campus.
The messages have since been erased by an outside power-washing company.
Daniel Gurskis, dean of the College of the Arts, explained the to The Montclarion via email why the lockout occurred over the weekend.
“Safety is my overriding concern and a building that is never locked presents an assortment of risks to both people and property,” he said. “Since my arrival at Montclair State three and a half years ago, there have been multiple thefts of equipment from Calcia. All occurred overnight or on the weekend.”
Locking down Calcia, therefore, is an issue of safety to the College of the Arts, which closes down general access to the building at 11 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends.
Still, Gurskis said, students whose names have been given to the Department of Art and Design can gain access to the building at any time by swiping their ID card and temporarily unlocking the doors, allowing access only to these permitted individuals, a policy which the dean called “reasonable” and which he believes “fairly balances the interests of the students with the need for safety.”
The problem this weekend was the result of a technological glitch, which has since been repaired, Gurskis said. “Technology, not policy, was the culprit. There should be no problem next weekend with the building being open according to the guidelines noted above.”
For students and faculty of the Department of Art and Design, however, the conversation doesn’t stop there.
Klaus Schnitzer, the Director of the Photography department, said in an interview that his students contacted him via cell phone over the weekend to ask him for help when they were locked out of the building.
Although Schnitzer’s students eventually gained access to Calcia Hall, he said that he came to campus to see if any other facilities were on lockdown at night. According to Schnitzer, College Hall, Sprague Library, Chapin Hall, Dickson Hall and University Hall were all open to the public while Calcia’s doors remained locked.
Student Nadine Ruiz, a photography major, brought up issues of safety outside of theft, including homeless people allegedly sleeping overnight within Calcia Hall.
She said that there is supposed to be some kind of patrol in Calcia to ensure that this doesn’t happen, but as far as she knows, she has never seen anyone patrolling the building at night.
“Students have to lock themselves in the room [they’re working in,” explained Ruiz. “There’s a kind of buddy system set up.” The locking of the building at night, then, is meant to combat these kind of testimonies from students who spend much of their days—and nights—in Calcia.
The vandal, however, brought up a slew of other complaints including the lack of “a good administration,” “job security for adjuncts,” “new facilities,” “opportunities for art students,” “equality,” “plumbing,” “heat,” “a good curriculum” and “people who care.”
Another student in the department, Rachel Cullinane, a studio major in metal work, said that the comments on the wall were “all completely true.”
Yet, Cullinane feels her complaints and those of her fellow students are often not taken seriously. “A lot of people are thinking we’re crazy when we talk about the stuff we need.”
Schnitzer agreed that these concerns are “very legitimate.”
“The building is ancient, the plumbing needs to be replaced and the studios are outdated,” Schnitzer said. “These problems need to be addressed. Students are paying tuition for this facility.”
“I’ve been in Calcia four days a week this semester and there’s no heating,” Ruiz said. “We have to wear our coats in there because it’s so cold. The bathrooms don’t work all the time. There’s just a whole bunch of issues and people are tired of it. In the art community, we don’t get as much recognition as the traditional [departments] like the business school. Montclair [State] has a lot of art students, but they’re not well-represented.”
These are issues, however, that Gurskis said he and his colleagues are trying to address. He said that adjuncts in the department face the same standards as those throughout the university, but he does foresee change in other areas of concerns brought up by the vandal.
“A robust, relevant curriculum is the bedrock of any academic program,” Gurskis said, addressing claims in the graffiti that the department lacked a strong curriculum. “The faculty in the Department of Art and Design has been hard at work on a major revision of the curriculum, which has begun to go through the mandated approval process.”
Additionally, Gurskis hopes that Calcia will undergo facility improvements soon. “Constructing a building that brings together all the areas of the department in a contemporary facility has long been a goal of mine,” he said. “A building of this sort is very expensive to build and the university has the capacity for only a limited number of construction projects at any given time. Nevertheless, I have been actively working on this and I am confident that we will make significant progress over the course of the next few years.”