By Mahgul Mansoor
A toilet set on fire, trash cans thrown out of windows and stuck between pipes on the ceiling, and overflowing sinks, along with other acts of vandalism, recently caused the administration to take prompt action.
The boy’s and girl’s bathrooms on all floors, excluding the first and the seventh, were temporarily shut down this past month due to necessary repairs.
On February 27th, an email was sent out to parents informing them of the administration’s decision.
Tech bathrooms are frequent targets of vandalism. In the past couple of years students have observed missing toilets, damaged urinals, graffiti, wasted toilet paper rolls, and the displacement of trash cans.
The facilities’ unsupervised nature, as there are no cameras to monitor the bathrooms, make them vulnerable to vandalism.
“Bathrooms are unsupervised and students know it. Most people do not look at each other closely in a bathroom, so a person may be doing something he or she shouldn’t be and nobody would notice it right away,” explained Ms. Laura Marquez, AP of Parent and Student Engagement.
She added that, “The girls’ bathroom did not have extensive damage to their bathrooms and were deemed safe by the custodial staff.” The girl’s bathrooms were closed for no more than a day after the announcement.
Many students see the closing of bathrooms as a punishment, rather than a necessary step in school maintenance.
Ahmad Hayat ’14 views the closing down of the bathrooms as an inappropriate and unfair punishment for the students who did not partake in the vandalizing of the bathrooms.
He explained, “The administration is punishing the student body by shutting down the bathrooms, so that they have to walk down or up to the seventh and first floor.”
Hayat also imagines the situation from the perspective of the administration, “One can argue it is also being done for maintenance, because we as students fail to notice the school’s budget. The school spends millions of dollars every year in maintenance on things such as new technology, tables, chairs, painting, and events. Therefore the school cannot afford to spend more on the bathrooms because they do not have sufficient funding for it.”
Brandon See ’15 said, “The school holds at least 5,000 kids and one bathroom per floor is already too little… This just makes it [the vandalism] worse because it might anger students and might motivate them to vandalize more.”
The way See sees it, “Vandalism occurs a lot in the bathroom because students think they can get away with it considering the amount of students in Tech.
Nishath Azad ’14 views the closings as punishment that might influence students to take action. “It’s a punishment because, due to the immature behavior of a small portion of the student population, a majority of the boys are being punished. So there’s always the possibility that someone will crack and report the culprits in order to get the bathrooms open again. And it’s also an attempt to teach the ones who did it a lesson.”
Contrary to the opinion of some students, some faculty members believe that the closing of the bathrooms was strictly for maintenance purposes.
Marquez explains the rationale behind the actions of the administration, “Unfortunately, it was a necessary evil. There was severe damage in some of the bathrooms, making them potentially hazardous for other students to use them. We didn’t know to what extent the damage was and had to confirm that with the custodial staff and contractors from the city before we could take any chances and have students use the facilities.”
The safety of the students is the administration’s number one priority.
Dean Concetta Licitra commented on the toilet that was set on fire, which forced the administration to take swift action and punish the vandal severely. “This is taking vandalism to a point where it’s putting the whole Tech community in jeopardy. Someone could have been hurt or even worse killed.”
The punishment was a superintendent suspension, which requires the unnamed student to attend a different a separate school for the time period he is under suspension.
Like Marquez, Licitra does not see it as a punishment but rather time for custodians to gather the tools required to clean and repair the bathrooms.
According to Licitra, vandalism occurs because of “students who can not communicate their frustrations in an appropriate, positive and constructive way project it on to something else.”
Similarly, Hayat believes “when vandalism happens anywhere it is a form of retaliation. In this case, I think students are retaliating at the way the school is run and the new changes. Changes such as the new grading policy which has made it difficult for students to do better.”
Both Marquez and Licitra find the destruction of school property, which often costs several thousand dollars in repairs, to be counterproductive because students are damaging facilities that they themselves use.
“The only reason the bathrooms were closed was because of the conditions created by the students who were involved in the vandalism… I don’t know why students think it is fun to deface and destroy school property, especially something as necessary as a bathroom,” said Marquez.
Marquez suggests that understanding “the why” of the vandalism dilemma can help the administration come up with ways to solve the issue.
She encourages students to advise administration on actions they can take to minimize the occurrences of vandalism.
“I would love to hear from students what they think about deterring vandalism and other issues facing the students in this school. Please feel free to speak to me privately in 1W2, speak to your representatives in the SGO and have them bring your ideas to me. I welcome anyone’s insight.”
Licitra also encourages students to take action. “Students should put pressure on each other. If someone is aware of something, they should report it. We are a community. The safety, maintenance, and tone of the school depends on all of us working together. Its not just us [administration]. Peers should talk to their friends. You’re destroying bathrooms, your own bathrooms, and being counter-productive.”