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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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‘These are the Facebook message boards of our times’: A look at UB’s bathroom graffiti

The underrated (and illegal) communication forum known as vandalism

<p>Graffiti peppers the walls of bathrooms of UB's campus.</p>

Graffiti peppers the walls of bathrooms of UB's campus.

A men’s bathroom in UB’s Lockwood Memorial Library is home to a marker-drawn diagram demonstrating a stick figure’s inability to put his feet on the ground due to the height of the toilet. The drawing is captioned, “Lockwood toilets discriminate against short kings.”

Bathrooms around campus share polls, contact information, drawings and other commentary, including statements on the recent Israel-Palestine conflict.

What these bathroom graphics have in common is the fact that they are considered graffiti — a form of vandalism — not only by UB but also by New York State. This graffiti can be difficult to remove, according to Director of Facilities Operations Jeffrey Angiel.

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Bathroom graffiti in Lockwood.

“Some materials may be cleaned using solvents, cleaners or degreasers; others may need to be painted over, ground off or have the defaced materials replaced,” Angiel said.

Despite UB’s efforts, these methods can sometimes be ineffective.

In a men’s bathroom in Baldy Hall, a homophobic slur was carved into a stall’s wall. Above it in neat handwriting, with an arrow connecting the two images, are the words “what 1.0 GPA does to a mf.” Though the slur has since been painted over, its message is still visible.

“It is our intent to remove any graffiti found or reported in a timely manner,” Angiel said. “Messages or images with the intent of harassment, inciting violence, bigotry, hatred or discrimination will receive priority attention.”

Even graffiti with a positive message is considered illegal. A women’s bathroom in the Student Union shares uplifting notes like “peace and love,” “the world is better with you in it” and “your mental health matters!” In a matter of time, these will be removed.

Instead of scribbling away in cramped stalls, Angiel encourages students to use UB’s Paint-A-Bull, “a canvas where community members may express their opinions in a non-destructive manner.” But a full shift away from semi-private stall writing toward public, federally-endorsed forums like the Paint-A-Bull may still take some time.

As one bathroom graffiti artist wrote, “These are the Facebook message boards of our times!”

bathroom-graffiti-facebook-message-board

Bathroom graffiti in the Student Union.

Instances of graffiti can be reported to University Facilities Customer Service at 716-645-2025, Residential Facilities Customer Service 716-645-2171, or University Police at 716-645-2222.

Grant Ashley and Matthew Mcculloch contributed to this reporting.

Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor and can be reached at xiola.bagwell@ubspectrum.com


XIOLA BAGWELL


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Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor at The Spectrum. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy/romance novels, watching lighthearted movies and spending time with her friends and family. Xiola is a linguistics major, minoring in Spanish. 

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