Common spaces lie dorm-ant

Respecting others’ property is usually one of the first things that kids learn in kindergarten, but lately that principle appears to be the first rule that we forget in college. Over the past couple of months, Mission Park common rooms have been under constant attack by fellow students. It is not unusual to walk through the common room one morning and discover this or that object missing (including very valuable objects, in some cases), graffiti on a wall or unidentifiable liquids splattered over what used to be an acceptably messy common room. I haven’t heard of this sort of thing happening on this scale anywhere else on campus, and when I asked upperclassmen, they agreed that these incidents hadn’t happened during their freshman year. So what is going on, Class of 2013?

Ironically, I started paying attention to the petty stealing around Thanksgiving vacation, when in one night at least four entry quote boards disappeared. Now, we all know that entry banners are basically made so they can be “stolen” in friendly entry rivalry. But quote boards are different; they belong to the entry in a personal way. As students here at Williams, almost all of us have at some point been first-years in entries with their own quote boards, banners and adventures, so I would’ve thought that everyone understood that stealing a quote board would be crossing the line. But the group who took the quote boards some months ago obviously didn’t. I think a lot of people expected them to reappear at some point and the entire thing to be dismissed as just a slightly sour prank. But like a lot of the other items that go missing, they never did. Most of the entries have just made replacement boards, in some cases rather halfheartedly – what’s to say they won’t be stolen again after all.

But the quote boards (which, despite the emotional attachment, are still just sheets, I guess) aren’t the only items that have been disappearing. It seems like every weekend I hear a different story about dorm thefts: cameras, phones, bikes, posters and refrigerator items have all gone missing. Last weekend around 2 a.m., a group of people came by and ripped stuff off my entry’s walls and, when comparing notes with other people, I found that we weren’t the only victims. Even the posters in the main Mission hallway lay in tatters on the floor. The message was clear: Someone here has no respect for the rest of us.

Is this all supposed to be funny? Are we supposed to laugh and brush it off? I think a lot of people do because there’s really not much to be done that won’t harm us, too. That is, alerting Campus Safety and Security or complaining to other campus authorities will probably only result in more rules and regulations. This is a problem that we all intuitively know has to be resolved by us, the students: We need to figure out why all of a sudden respecting other people’s property isn’t a common value anymore. Part of the problem is that we, as students, especially the first-years getting used to an -all-new environment, have a hard time drawing a specific line between pranks and vandalism. Nobody wants to step forward and then be ridiculed for being too uptight. But we shouldn’t let this hesitation stop us from making clear that it’s not okay to mess with us. There’s only so much we can take, and I for one have had enough.

It all boils down to respect. It appears to me that Williams is big on respect – that seems to be what Claiming Williams Day is about. We can’t all live together here if we don’t respect each other. So let’s see if we have grown up at all since starting college and quit the harmful vandalism, because these are not just pranks anymore. These tasteless “jokes” are starting to infringe on our right to feel safe in the place we call home for nine months of the year. It is not acceptable to have our common rooms under constant attack by fellow students. Like it or not, we all live here, and we all should feel safe and comfortable at Williams.

Elisabeth Schmitt ‘13 is from Bulverde, Texas. She lives in Armstrong.

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