Property Destruction and School Improvement

by Garrett Coble

Photo Credit: Millsaps College

by Garrett Coble
opinions editor

Over the past three years, the so-called New Dorms (aka John, Charles and Susanna) have sustained incredible amounts of damage, the latest incident causing a closing of some study rooms.

Interestingly, over the same period, students have consistently voiced discontent over the state of the college’s facilities. Some of this complaining was (and is) fairly grounded; the New South elevator operates on a seemingly impeccable monthly schedule, slowly developing a groan perfect for foreshadowing a torn-cable freefall. Though I prefer to inflame and divide, I think that if there is one thing most readers can agree with me on, it is my staunchly anti-elevator-death stance. Such problems need attention for safety reasons. Other requests center less on safety and more on aesthetics, such as replacing worn carpet with wooden floors.

In the past year, the college’s administration has delivered, revamping the Atrium, Bacot lobby, the Caf’, Ezelle and administrative spaces, as well as adding new furniture in some buildings. However, I am not certain that these decisions were the right choices. Nothing is cheap. Substantial funds and efforts went to adding a new shine to several areas in need of such a touch up. But given the student body’s apparent propensity to vandalize, should such improvements have been undertaken?

It places those in charge in a Catch-22: Face unhappy students, or watch new facilities depreciate alarmingly fast. Following the root of this problem does not lead to the administrative staff or the college’s planning committees; they’ve delivered what students requested. Instead, it traces its way to a fundamental flaw in parts of the student body. This isn’t to say every student vandalizes and disrespects college property, but the degree of destruction executed over the past three years indicates either a small number of individuals hell bent on burning Rome, or a larger portion of the student body actively refusing to behave as adults.

Of course, certain degrees of mayhem and destruction are unavoidable parts of college. What is more troubling is how rarely the perpetrators face consequences because students prefer to share their knowledge of the incident in the cafeteria than share it with Campus Safety. While those committing the vandalism obviously fail to meet the expectations of a Millsaps student, those who do not report said vandals also fail to adhere to accountability standards. Students, teachers and administrators have preached and pleaded before, asking students to follow the Wesley model. However, at some point, the childish desires for destruction and lack of respect must be suppressed regardless of the desire to “do all the good we can.” The New South elevator’s continual coating of drywall, spilled food and vomit testifies to this lack of respect. In a similar vein, at some point, the “snitching” mentality must give way to a willingness to hold fellow students responsible for their ridiculous behavior.

If given charge of campus improvement and a blank check, I’d still find it difficult to support providing students with new gadgets or facility improvements. After witnessing a certain number of card scanners ripped off the wall, replacing the machine becomes almost comical—except for the cost. The request for improvements does not reconcile with the manner in which the campus is treated. Nothing exemplifies a black hole of money better than Ezelle hallway ceiling tiles: No matter how many dollars are spent replacing these tiles, the hole just gets a little bit deeper.

Perhaps it is just part of the maturation experience. As they say, to make a college, you have to destroy a few dorms (or is it omelets and eggs?). Just don’t gripe about the war-torn environment you force yourself, and those around you, to live in.

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