Reflections On Colgate -- Or Should I Say, Crimegate -- University

23 April 1999

By Stentor Danielson

Ah, the last issue of the spring semester. Time for sappy reflections on what we've learned this year. Being a first-year, I have naturally learned quite a few new things. I learned that the Internet can magnify human stupidity exponentially. I learned that it all depends on your frame of reference. I learned that there is a reason we don't have the 21 meal plan. But, most importantly, I learned that Colgate students are a bunch of criminals.

The first thing to spring to mind is, naturally, the underage drinking issue. I'm part of the microscopic minority of Colgate students who didn't get drunk by the end of the first week of classes. In fact, 100 percent of my alcohol consumption comes in the form of taking communion in church. But I won't rant at you about this issue, as I know many of you love spending money to wake up feeling like a sculpture in Taylor Lake. I guess I should be glad that the age for smoking is 18.

Colgate folk also seem to be kleptomaniacs. Which is good, in that it gives me an excuse to use the word "kleptomaniac." But it's still a little disturbing when friends come back from a trp to the Colgate at Cornell hockey game disappointed because all they managed to steal was a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign. And it doesn't sit quite right to hear that the only issue in stealing the head from the Bucknell Bison mascot is the feasibility -- not the morality -- of the feat. And this theft is not limited to schools ending in "-nell." Colgate facilities, especially Frank Dining Hall, are routinely looted. I got a guilt trip laid on me when I declined to steal a tray for a planned sledding excursion. The people on my floor proudly made plans to steal the dessert cart from Frank.

Compiling the "Best of the Blotter" for State of the Gate, I saw that a map of Africa had been stolen from Alumni, as well as some combination door handles. Come on, people. I seem to remember a neat quote from my Western Traditions reading (which I actually did) -- something about "Thou shall not steal." Somebody important said that ... hmm ... could it have been God?!?! And for those of you who do not subscribe to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, I think I heard once that some guy went to court on a criminal charge called "theft."

The reason I bring all of this up is because of the vandalism of the David Hayes sculpture exhibit. First off, I would like to say this: those sculptures are ugly. They are industrial slag pile, deep sea glowing fish, Persson Hill construction site ugly. The pulticolored ones on the roof of Dana and down near Cutten are especially ugly. Even my art professor thinks they're hideous. Every time I see one, I want to drag it off someplace no one will ever see it.

But I don't. Because those sculptures are not my property. They belong to David Hayes and are on loan to the Picker Art gallery. That means that if I, or anyone else, do anything malevolent to one of them, I am committing a crime. A serious, preosecutable crime against Mr. Hayes, the Picker Art Gallery, and Colgate. If I were David Hayes, I would have shot myself before I made even one of those sculptures, much less dozens (in the leg, though). But if I had gone ahead and made them and gotten them displayed, you can bet your fake ID I'd be pressing charges, and calling for the harshest legal penalty.

Furthermore, the vandalism makes us all look stupid. I don't want to think of the population of my alma mater as being a bunch of people who have so little self control that when they see something that they don't like, they lash out violently against it. We're not barbarians, but this vandalism is making us look like we are. (The Vandals, you may recall, were one of the barbarian tribes that destroyed the Roman Empire.) The reason we have laws and a system of government is so that we don't all become vigilantes, using force to get whatever we want.

Of course, the Picker Art Gallery ought to have given us some way to get what we want without resorting to crime. A student referendum, perhaps, or at least a proposal to the Student Government Association. An exhibition like this, which affects the entire campus, as well as the April Visit Days prospectives, should have been discussed with the student body. At the very least, it should have been advertised well in advance. It was a week before I figured outwhat the deal was with the sculptures, and I only found out that soon becuase I know the Arts and Features Editors of The Maroon-News.

But that still doesn't justify what has happened to the sculptures. If the students at the nation's twenty-first ranked liberal arts college can't exercise enough restraint to refrain from defacing artwork that we don't like, how can we expect anything but anarchy from the Community College and Vo-Tech crowd? I admit it's not as bad as that yet, but I think you see my point. We are setting a horrible example for the world through a number of crimes, the most obvious of which is the sculpture vandalism.

If Colgate wants sculptures all around campus, that's all well and good. Many of the other schools I looked at had several large pieces of art on campus. But these sculptures should be acquired slowly -- once every four or five years, maybe -- and their installation should be the subject of a campus-wide referendum. They should not be slapped together in the night, with nary a word said to the residents of this otherwise beautiful neighborhood.

So, I hope Campus Safety catches the people responsible. I hope that they are tried and convicted. I almost wish we could revive the honored Iroquois practice of running the gauntlet, so that I could personally spit on them. But that would be vindictive and mean, so I would have to exercise the self restraint that the vandals didn't have, and show why I am not on the same degraded plane as them.

There must be some thrill to this crime thing that I'm missing. There must be some immensely pleasurable feeling that comes from knowing you did something that is hard and pointless, but wrong. But I have no interest in experiencing it.

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