Fifty-seven exit signs were destroyed, and a bathroom stall's dividers were ripped out in Keeney Quadrangle during a weekend at the end of September. The incident was the peak of an upward trend in campus vandalism in the past two years, according to the Office of Residential Life.
Furniture theft has also been an issue in Keeney. "We are currently searching for four bean bags, and we suggest whoever has those bags to return them before I come and find them," Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services, told The Herald.
To repair and clean damages to facilities, the University spends more than $125,000 per year on average, Bova said, adding that about $30,000 is spent each year on exit signs alone.
Attempts at stealing larger furniture have also been an issue. "I saw a group of six upperclassmen carrying a couch down the stairs from one of the fifth floor lounges and called DPS," said Zach Minster '14, a residential counselor in Jameson Hall.
Though vandalism occurs in other dorms, the amount that takes place in Keeney is disproportionate to the number of residents the dorm houses. "Over the past two years, while Keeney is 14 percent of our residents, it is 50 percent of the dorm damage," said Marylou McMillan, senior director for planning and projects.
ResLife hopes recent and upcoming renovations in Keeney will reduce vandalism by fostering a greater sense of community, McMillan and Bova said. Keeney will be divided into three 200-student sections that will be separated by armed emergency doors. Students will no longer be able to "run laps around Keeney, hitting down 15 exit signs in one lap," said Isabella Giancarlo '14, a women's peer counselor in Archibald Hall. "I want to be able to come home Friday night and sleep, instead of filling out damage reports," she added.
Giancarlo speculated on the causes of first-years destroying exit signs. "Besides drunkenness, people hit exit signs as a perverse statement of their newfound independence in college," she said.
But students who said they have hit exit signs offered a variety of reasons for their behavior. "It was the third day of school. One of my older friends came over and asked, 'How are the exit signs in Keeney still up?' So he broke one, and I broke one," a Keeney resident, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid disciplinary action, told The Herald.
Other Keeney residents accounted for the temporary removal of bean bags from common rooms in several ways, including using the bags as a bed for visiting friends or for themselves when they had been "sexiled" by their roommates.
Minster, who saw juniors carrying away a couch, said he though that older students jealous of the renovated facilities are more inclined to steal from and damage them.
The fact that upperclassmen and non-Keeney residents have been involved in the dorm's vandalism prompted ResLife to email the entire on-campus community Sept. 28.
The email, which warned that "continued damage to exit signs and other vandalism of University facilities and property will result in assessing a damage fee," sparked a shift in Keeney residents' expressed attitudes. Bova confirmed to The Herald that "if we continue to have wholesale destruction, I will seek to look at the entire community and seek to hold them responsible." Following the email, incidents of exit sign vandalism have decreased markedly, and jokes about exit sign violence have become jokes about defending exit signs.
"Punching exit signs is rude and immature," said Dylan Felt '16.
Charles Snider '16, who found his hallway littered with broken exit signs one Sunday night, said he was "filled with an insatiable desire for justice."
Bova said the University is considering replacing the current exit signs with the more resilient triangular models already found on the fourth floor of Archibald when the rest of the dorm is renovated. But Bova added that "sensitizing the community to what is going on around them, not architecture or threats, is the most important strategy for reducing vandalism."
"Punching exit signs, I think, is indicative of unrealized privilege that's pervasive at Brown and probably most of our peer institutions," said Sophie McKibben '16. "I don't think people realize that the money spent repairing unnecessary vandalism could be spent on scholarships, programs and research."