Vandalism spiked as students prepared to leave Middlebury

There are seniors seeing people maybe for the last time ever, I get it. But why take it out on other people here? You’re part of a community. — Staff Council President Tim Parsons

This article first appeared in the Middlebury Campus.

MIDDLEBURY — Faced with the sudden reality that their semesters would likely be ending, many Middlebury students spent their nights before the mandatory COVID-19-related evacuation earlier this month partying, drinking and vandalizing the campus and town. Damage included broken glass, stolen signs, strewn garbage, smashed furniture and windows, and items thrown into trees. 

College Facilities staff spent days cleaning up messes across campus. 

Normally, two employees must walk the campus twice a week for two hours to clear the campus of trash and hazards outside, explained College Landscape Horticulturist and Staff Council President Tim Parsons. On March 12 and 13 it took two entire days for teams of five.

“There are seniors seeing people maybe for the last time ever, I get it,” Parsons said. “But why take it out on other people here? You’re part of a community.” 

On the morning of March 13, as a group of five landscapers prepared to secure buildings that would be closed to students in the coming weeks, they reflected on spending the last two days walking around the campus picking up broken glass and demolished items. 

One worker said he has seen items like fans and microwaves thrown out of windows, and that at least 10 to 15 soap dispensers had been ripped off the walls in residential halls and smashed.

Others expressed concern for dogs and students walking across the campus who might be injured by the shards of glass strewn in the grass and on sidewalks. 

Some landscapers had to wrestle bikes, bike racks and other large items down from trees. Traffic signs, weighing several hundred pounds and buried three feet into the ground, were torn out of the earth and discarded, or are missing entirely. 

The sign that designates President Laurie Patton’s parking space was ripped from the ground — it was missing days later.

According to Custodial Supervisor Dan Celik, other residential hall damages included smashed windows in Forrest Hall and Battell Hall, a shattered glass door in the Tavern Social House, smashed scaffolding outside Atwater Hall B, broken lights and windows in Chateau, ripped-down hall lights in the Ross complex, a hole smashed into the wall at 48 South St. (KDR House), discharged fire extinguishers in Allen Hall, and other ripped signs and bulletin boards around campus.

The college had not yet assessed the total cost of the destruction as of this writing. Damages in residential halls are charged to students based on their location. Damages outside are absorbed by the facilities budget.

Parsons said that the damage in the few days after the March 10 announcement that the college would send most students home was worse than that of a typical Senior Week. He theorizes that Senior Week usually has a series of planned activities that keep students off campus or otherwise busy, which can prevent chaos like that which occurred that week.

“(Landscaping staff) would have loved to help students and their families pack up their cars,” Parsons said. “But instead, they spent their time picking up broken glass.”

Damage also extended into the town of Middlebury. Two Brothers Tavern, a restaurant and bar on Main Street, was hosting its weekly Thursday College Night when its sign was partially pulled off and its American flag torn down.

“Small businesses like ours have razor thin profit margins and even less time to pay for and fix such things as those caused by last night’s destructive behavior,” Two Brothers wrote in a Facebook post. “Have a little respect when you are here, at home and everywhere you go in the world.”

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