Berkeley College’s dining hall was vandalized Tuesday night, with cake from the dining hall smeared across service counters, carpet, furniture, walls, an IM whiteboard and an oil painting.
According to an e-mail sent to Berkeley students by Master Norma Thompson Wednesday morning, the dining hall will be closed during evening study hours, and all study breaks have been canceled until the perpetrators “come forward or are turned in.” Berkeley students reacted to the new restrictions with both understanding and frustration, acknowledging the gravity of the vandalism but decrying a punishment that they felt was disproportionate and ineffective. Noting that the damage occurred on the night of Spring Fling, many speculated that whoever committed the vandalism was probably intoxicated and may never come forward.
“I just think that it’s unfair to basically punish everyone for such an act, especially when we don’t have proof that it’s someone from Berkeley,” Mahdi Sabbagh ’10 said. “I think these things happen especially since it was after Spring Fling. It could have been anyone who was drunk that night.”
Thompson’s e-mail characterized the acts as “hateful” and urged students to view the new restrictions as a “crucial gesture of community.” The e-mail also mentioned that dining hall employee Annette Tracey’s desk space, former master Robert Triffin’s portrait, and dining hall equipment were damaged. No further details were provided about the specifics of the vandalism.
Thompson could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
By the time many students arrived in the dining hall for breakfast the following morning, the mess had been cleaned up. Rumors have circulated among students that the damages amounted to $1,000 to $2,000, but the figure could not be confirmed.
Some noted that nothing seemed out of place and that the damage described by dining hall workers seemed a lot less extensive and vindictive than what the e-mail had intimated.
“Any way you look at it this is not a hate crime. It was just Spring Fling, and people were obviously drunk,” Travis Torbati ’09 said. “Spring Fling happens like a block away, so anyone could have come in. There’s no reason to believe that people directed this specifically at dining hall staff.”
But while students questioned the extent of and intentions behind the damage, others such as Emma Smith ’09 felt that something was necessary to express the injustice of the vandalism.
“I’m really sad that [the dining hall] is closed,” Smith said. “But at the same time … it’s absolutely terrible and disrespectful to the dining hall workers and the community.”
Torbati said he passed by the dining hall twice on the night of Spring Fling, noting that around 8 p.m. few people were around. He said that around 2 a.m. he noticed that cake had been smeared across the intramurals board in front of an otherwise empty dining hall. Because few people were in the area throughout the night, he said, the possibility that witnesses will come forward is highly unlikely.
“Master Thompson believes that there was someone else in the dining hall who saw them do it and that they’re going to come forward,” Torbati said. “But judging now from how many people were in the area during and after Spring Fling … I find it pretty unlikely that people were in the dining hall while this happened.”
Berkeley College typically schedules study breaks for every night of reading week, and their cancellation in combination with the elimination of dining hall study hours proved to be especially disappointing to Josh Garcia ’09, who suggested the administration should instead considering declining dining hall transfers to Berkeley.
“This is a really hard time, and a lot of us really enjoy the dining hall and study breaks,” Garcia said. “The action is just creating bitterness toward the administration.”