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Pomona's Walker Wall "Vandalized"

April 9, 2010

Dan Evans
Pomona's Walker Wall "Vandalized"

As any staff member at the Forum can tell you, our lives are made infinitely more exciting by our involvement with the paper. Getting the scoop on an important news story takes one into a shady underworld at the Claremont Colleges, a place where powerful student-run groups on campus vie for superiority. Our quests for truth are laced with intrigue that reminds us how awesome it would have been to be Sherlock Holmes.

And so it is with our story today, the case of the Walker Wall Vandalism. For those of you unfamiliar with the setting for our story, Walker Wall is the south-facing stone wall that surrounds a grassy courtyard near Frary Dining Hall. On the street-facing outside, it's a shade of unassuming slate gray. But like so many things in life, it's what's inside that counts. Student organizations from all campuses use the interior of the wall as a canvas, advertising for events or sending messages to the student body. But it's not just for student organizations. Walker Wall has become a symbol of free speech: any student in possession of some paint and a good idea is allowed to put something on the wall, presumably. Obviously there's an unspoken code of conduct: don't paint over someone else's stuff, unless it's really old. Students, for the most part, respect said code.

It was on a fine spring day not too long ago that one such student group, the Queer Resources Center, utilized Walker Wall to kick off a month's worth of activities and seminars for Gaypril. The QRC spent a solid two days painting a bright rainbow down the length of the wall. The painting of the rainbow, which has been QRC Gaypril tradition for some time, required an extensive amount of effort and work on the part of the QRC staff and members. In 2009, the rainbow remained untouched for many months on the wall, brightening the courtyard and raising awareness on behalf of the QRC.

Yet the 2010 rainbow found its unadulterated tenure cut short. On the morning of April 4th, the wall, including the rainbow, was found ransacked by a host of crudely-scrawled phrases: many of them banal, many of them offensive.  Red plastic cups and painting paraphernalia littered the quad.

The QRC reacted quickly. It was then I was contacted by Caitlin Feeney of the QRC, asking that the CMC Forum become involved in the investigation. An email sent out by QRC made it clear that those who were responsible would pay for their vandalism:

It is not the responsibility of the queer community to repaint the wall and sweep this incident under the rug. If Claremont becomes unsafe for certain groups, hiding it will not help. If there is going to be any event in response to this, the QRC—busy with its own events this April—does not want to expend time and resources doing damage control. We demand that the perpetrators of this vandalism accept responsibility and respond with action.

Who is to blame for such things? Were the perpetrators Pomona Students, CMCers, or perhaps those troublesome Westies from Harvey Mudd? The Claremont Colleges are all too familiar with graffiti-related controversy. Lest we forget the dire incident in the spring of 2009 when some unknown outlaw scrawled "Scissor Me Scrippsies" and "Dick-tation" on the asphalt near the Motley to the View coffee shop. Could those culprits have struck again?  It seemed as though the case had gone cold.

But then the Forum, utilizing its contacts in the 5C underworld, came across a magnificent discovery: the perps had apologized! Not only had they apologized, but they had actually sent an email intended to ameliorate the situation before the QRC issued its email condemnation of the night's crimes. They wrote a lengthy email regarding the incident, still while remaining anonymous. Leaders of Bev Scavvy claim that instead of a maliciously-intended attack on the QRC and "other" groups on campus, the incident was simply a misunderstanding during the Bev Scavvy, a hilarious night of 5C debauchery organized by a shadowy, nameless group of students. They offered forth this explanation of events:

We understand that many of those associated with the QRC—and many supportive students from around the Claremont Colleges more generally—were both sad and angry to find that the Rainbow flag only recently painted on Walker Wall had apparently been defaced over night.  Although at this point the writing has already been done, we would like to make it clear that none of it was in any way directed at or related to the QRC, Gaypril or the queer community of the Claremont Colleges.  The writing occurred specifically because of one of the clues on the scavenger hunt list, which asked students to find, make, and do certain things throughout the Claremont Colleges and the surrounding area.  The clue in question read: "Your team’s name, written as large and indelibly as possible on Walker Wall."  Teams chose team names prior to receiving the list of clues (prior to finding out that they would be writing these names on Walker Wall), as we required teams to choose names in order to register for the event.

Mind you, this solitary paragraph was just one of the lengthy apology sent to the QRC earlier this week by the anonymous organizers. The homophobic, sexist, and racist slurs scrawled upon the wall? Those were the names the students had given their teams.

If this situation were as simple as it appears, it would seem logical that the organizers of the Bev Scavvy would come forward and reveal their true identities. Unfortunately, Pomona's tyrannical drinking policy doesn't permit such events. Their rule-enforcing body has taken a harsh stance on organizers in previous years even though alcohol consumption is only optional. (Several years ago, one of the clues was to find a receipt for $0.47. When Pomona learned of this, it searched through Coop store transactions in order to fine everyone who had rung up a $.47 transaction that night.)

The situation seems to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. Sure, everybody makes mistakes, but just because you issue forth a glowing, heartfelt apology doesn't mean that those offended will have to accept it.  Questions remain to be answered: Did the QRC overreact to the innocent scribbles of college students? Will the anonymous perps be forced to come forward for this vandalism? Will the QRC accept this apology? Will the rainbow be fixed by well-intentioned students? Can you really vandalize a graffiti wall?

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