Community responses vary on graffiti’s efficacy, purpose

By Emma Ambroziak

On the morning of Oct. 16, students and faculty arriving for their first classes of the day witnessed the shocking, yet somewhat expected, graffiti that covered nearly every academic building on Lewis & Clark’s undergraduate campus. 

Last year, JR Howard and Bodine Hall were vandalized on Indigenous People’s Day. This year, after the holiday passed, it seemed that the school had escaped the annual spray-painting fiasco. However, the week after Indigenous People’s Day, students awoke to a campus covered in multi-colored graffiti spouting a wide variety of messages, ranging from academic complaints to demands for decolonization. While graffiti is nothing new at LC, especially around Indigenous People’s Day, this year’s graffiti was particularly controversial in comparison to previous years due to its prominence throughout  campus as well as the variety of messages that were unrelated to the Indigenous People’s Day. 

According to an email from Campus Safety to the campus community on Oct. 16, two individuals were discovered spray painting around 2 a.m. on Oct 16. and fled the scene once they were spotted by Campus Safety officers. In response to the incident, President Robin Holmes-Sullivan sent an email to the student body later that day, expressing her disgust with this year’s graffiti.

“This act demonstrates an appalling lack of respect for the hard work of students, and the staff and faculty that support them,” Holmes-Sullivan wrote.

Furthermore, the email stated that Robin Holmes- Sullivan does not condone vandalism. 

“To fix the damage done will cost tens of thousands of dollars, funds that would have been much better used to increase access and support students,” Holmes-Sullivan said. 

Although the administration holds a justifiably negative view towards graffiti on campus, the reactions among students were more varied. Some students argue that graffiti can be valid when protesting injustices. This reaction was particularly observed in response to last year’s Indigenous People’s Day graffiti. However, students generally held a more negative view of this year’s graffiti due to most of its messages being trivial in nature, causing many to view it as immature and lacking discernment.

“The previous year’s [graffiti] felt a bit extreme but also I could perhaps get their viewpoint,” Ian Cebula ’25 said. “This year, it feels like they were just doing it for fun or to get attention because there were so many messages like ‘THIS IS FUN’ or ‘Campo is bad at catching people.’ That really weakened any potential message they would have.”

Jules Replogle ’26  held a similar sentiment towards the graffiti, believing it to be a waste of the protest compared to last year’s Indigenous People’s Day graffiti that emphasized the name change movement.

“The first graffiti I saw wasn’t even anything related to the name change,” Replogle said. 

Replogle was particularly upset by the vandalism of the iconic Frank Manor House. 

“I think it was on the Frank Manor House, which also struck me a little bit because of the fact [that] for me, I think of it as a historic building and [that] it is really important,” Repogle said.

Despite her disgust towards the defamation of the Frank Manor House, Replogle expressed that vandalizing the Frank Manor House would have made more sense if the message criticized the school name or mascot. 

“That’s such a waste if you’re going to be graffitiing the building that’s the front and center of Lewis & Clark. Wouldn’t you want that to be the name change or something and not just silly faces and dicks everywhere?” Replogle said.

Replogle also discussed the political  and social impact of the graffiti drawings and messages.

“When you mix political messages that are important with something like a cat face on the bridge, it really just ruins the point of your message,” Replogle said. “For me at least, the only messages that I saw were the silly ones and I [thought], ‘Oh, somebody had fun last night.’ And that was really it until I put the two and two together, [thinking], ‘Oh, this is the protest that was going to happen.’”

William Suzio ’26 also had a negative opinion toward the graffiti. He was particularly concerned about its negative economic impact towards the school. 

“I think that this obviously took away from our tuition, so that sucks,” Suzio said.

Suzio also highlighted some of the messages that the graffiti conveyed were not just immature, but also offensive to some people. He argued that there are better alternatives for conveying opinions than with vandalism. 

“I think it was harmful because some of the messages could come across as offensive to some people,” Suzio said. “It’s an act of vandalism, too, so there are definitely better ways of going about spreading your ideas than actively vandalizing a building. Maybe you could go to a protest or donate to and support something. I just think it was harmful to some of the students’ beliefs here because it goes against them and it could make people feel unsafe as well.”

When asked what messages he found offensive Suzio said, “I didn’t necessarily think many of them were ‘offensive,’ but I do think the ‘FREE PALESTINE’ vandalism was very polarizing because it could make some students who have different beliefs feel as if this isn’t a safe space for them or feel a little outcasted.” 

This year’s graffiti provoked strong and immediate reactions among all members of the LC community. Early on the morning of Oct. 16, there were already people at work washing off each building’s graffiti. Each school year presents its own forms of protest in response to Indigenous People’s day, but this year, important messages were sidelined by complaints about homework, academia and other topics. This year’s round of graffiti has sparked a variety of still ongoing conversations about the efficacy of these kinds of protests.

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