Village wall vandalized

Outdoor wall in the Muhlenberg Independent Living Experience (MILE) Village area spray-painted

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Photo by Alex McCauley '26

On Sunday, Mar. 3, a stone wall outside of the Village apartments was spray-painted with the words “Free Palestine.” On the following day, Associate Dean of Students Courtney Stephens sent a mass email to the student body as a reminder about policies within the Student Code of Conduct. She wrote, “This email is to remind all students that vandalism is a violation of our Student Code of Conduct and can result in sanctions ranging from probation to expulsion, depending on the situation. I urge all students to review the code and make sure that you are aligning your behavior with it at all times.” She continued, noting that if anyone had any information regarding the perpetrators, to contact Campus Safety. 

On Campus Safety’s written report, they classified the incident as a “hate crime.” In speaking with Dean of Students Allison Williams, she clarified that this initial classification was due to the spray-painting being reported as a bias incident. However, once the incident was investigated it was determined not to be biased. Williams stated that “a student or any person on the campus gets to decide if they believe that what they’re reporting is biased in nature, it’s in our job to determine if it is biased in nature [and] it was determined that it was not biased in nature.”

Williams noted that the incident is both a form of protest and vandalism, according to the College. She explained that “the protest policy specifically outlines that demonstrating any form of dissent or protest is allowed until it violates college policy.”  

Williams expanded on this, saying, “Under our right to dissent policy, students have the right to spray-paint a banner, a sign, a wall they construct…the right to dissent policy specifically references the code of conduct, and that [says] vandalism is not allowed in any possible way. So it can be a form of protest, but it’s not a form of protest that is allowed on Muhlenberg’s campus.”

Students expressed their thoughts on the incident. Rachelle Montilus ‘24, who also was the exhibition producer, dramaturg and co-curator for a Palestine art exhibition that was held on Mar. 2 said, “if you condemn vandalism as a method of protest because it’s ‘illegal,’ you would have really hated Black people during the Civil Rights Movement.”

“I think I like that there is anonymity behind [the act of protest], but it is aggressive enough to cause attention without being violent or scary,” an anonymous student said. “It didn’t scare me when it happened and what was scarier was the fact that the administration got rid of it so quickly and yet still felt the need to make an email go out about it, despite the fact that it was gone in 24 hours.”

“I think it was an act of frustration because there’s been a severe lack of publicity about it or just like any general statement coming from anybody higher up,” another anonymous student said. “I don’t see a problem with spray painting something and having it be in a hidden part of campus. [It was] not really harming anybody or anything. It wasn’t on a public piece of art. It wasn’t actually vandalizing anything. It was a wall.”

Riley Konstance ‘26 added onto this, asking, “I think just like the location of it…was very interesting. Why did you put it in a place that no one really goes to?” 

However, other students believed that vandalism was not the best way to protest. “I don’t think vandalism of any kind should be tolerated,” Marcos Santiago ‘26 said. “I think there are other ways to protest against what you believe in.” 

“Writing ‘Free Palestine,’ a wall by student housing isn’t going to really do anything in my opinion, except for intimidation,” another anonymous student said. They found it frustrating that the school’s response would be “putting an email about, ‘Oh vandalism is bad’ without saying anything about what actually happened.” 

“The school keeps talking around things, I feel like,” they added. 

Additional reporting by Amy Swartz ‘26

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